An increase in aneuploidy is a major cause for the marked decline in human female fertility commencing 35 years-of-age;the incidence of aneuploidy in eggs from women increases to 35% around 40 years-of-age, and is likely to be even higher because aneuploidy leading to a spontaneous abortion is frequently not recognized. Aneuploidy is a leading cause of pregnancy loss, and when development goes to term, an aggravating source of developmental disabilities and mental retardation. Most aneuplodies associated with increased maternal age are due to non-disjunction and meiotic errors that occur during meiosis. Remarkably, the underlying molecular mechanisms that lead to the age-associated increase in aneuploidy are poorly understood. Results of our previous studies suggest that defects in the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) and kinetochore function are likely causes for the age-associated increase in aneuploidy. The SAC is one pathway that prevents segregation errors by blocking the onset of anaphase until all chromosomes make proper attachments to the spindle. Using mouse as a model system and imaging of live individual oocytes, Specific Aim 1 will test the hypothesis that the robustness of the SAC in oocytes decreases with age . Another process that prevents errors is regulation of connections between kinetochores and spindle microtubules that results in a spindle with chromosomes correctly attached. Our expression profiling also reveals changes in expression of kinetochore proteins involved in chromosome congression.
Specific Aim 2 will examine chromosome congression and molecular mechanisms that underlie correct spindle microtubule-kinetochore attachment, and test the hypothesis that these mechanisms are compromised in oocytes obtained from old females.
Specific Aim 3 will test whether specific centromere and kinetochore proteins identified from our expression profiling studies are required for accurate chromosome segregation during MI. Results of experiments proposed in this application will provide a plethora of information regarding molecular bases that underlie the age-associated increase in the incidence of aneuploidy, as well as basic mechanisms required for accurate chromosome segregation. Such findings may suggest experimental interventions that could alleviate the propensity of oocytes obtained from older women to become aneuploid.
The proposed studies will provide new information regarding molecular mechanisms that underlie the maternal age-associated increase in aneuploidy. The results of these studies will likely impact on the treatment of human infertility and assisted reproduction technologies.
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