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Cytogenet Genome Res. 2011;133(2-4):209-22. doi: 10.1159/000324118. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

New insights into the genetic regulation of homologue disjunction in mammalian oocytes.

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Mammalian Oocyte and Embryo Research Laboratory, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Division of Biosciences and Institute for Women's Health, University College London, London, UK.


Mammalian oocytes execute a unique meiotic programme involving 2 arrest stages and an unusually protracted preamble to chromosome segregation during the first meiotic division (meiosis I). How mammalian oocytes successfully navigate their exceptional meiotic journey has long been a question of immense interest. Understanding the minutiae of female mammalian meiosis I is not merely of academic interest as 80-90% of human aneuploidy is the consequence of errors arising at this particular stage of oocyte maturation, a stage with a peculiar vulnerability to aging. Recent evidence indicates that oocytes employ many of the same cast of proteins during meiosis I as somatic cells do during mitosis, often to execute similar tasks, but intriguingly, occasionally delegate them to unexpected and unprecedented roles. This is epitomised by the master cell-cycle regulon, the anaphase-promoting complex or cyclosome (APC/C), acting in concert with a critical APC/C-targeted surveillance mechanism, the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC). Together, the APC/C and the SAC are among the most influential entities overseeing the fidelity of cell-cycle progression and the precision of chromosome segregation. Here I review the current status of pivotal elements underpinning homologue disjunction in mammalian oocytes including spindle assembly, critical biochemical anaphase-initiating events, APC/C activity and SAC signalling along with contemporary findings relevant to progressive oocyte SAC dysfunction as a model for age-related human aneuploidy.

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