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Hum Genet. 1983;63(2):132-8.

Down's syndrome in the male. Reproductive pathology and meiotic studies.


Studies on testicular histology and meiosis were carried out by the use of light and electron microscopy in an 18-year-old Down's syndrome male in an attempt to follow the fate of the extra chromosome 21 and to evaluate the effects of this condition on spermatogenesis and the reproductive functions. The histological changes in the testes corresponded to spermatogenic arrest. Electron microscopic whole-mount spreadings of meiotic cells in the pachytene stage showed that in most nuclei an extra chromosome 21 was not detectable. Only in a small number of nuclei, univalents or trivalents with segmental pairing structures of an extra chromosome could be discovered. In contrast, the great majority of (C-banded) diakinesis figures showed the presence of a supernumerary G (no. 21) chromosome. The absence of a traceable extra chromosome 21 in most pachytene cells is explained by the assumption that it is intimately connected with and hidden in the sex vesicle, whose complex structure does not allow the identification of single elements. Strong support for this assumption is seen (a) in the general tendency of narrow spatial association of unpaired segments with the XY complex and (b) in close structural similarities occurring between univalents or nonsynapsed segments of trivalents and the nonpaired segments of the sex chromosomes. It is suggested that the association or connection of an extra chromosome with the XY complex during pachytene interferes with the phenomenon of X inactivation. In animal systems such abnormal interference is related with spermatogenic breakdown and, in a general way, with male hybrid type sterility. So far, the range of sterility vs. fertility in cases of male Down's syndrome is not yet fully clear, but it appears that impairment of fertility, and sterility are most frequent. If so, it is proposed that the effect of the trisomy 21 condition on spermatogenesis (and fertility) is a consequence of the behavior of the extra chromosome in the meiotic prophase.

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