Errors in meiotic chromosome segregation are the leading cause of spontaneous abortions and birth defects. Almost all such aneuploidy derives from meiotic errors in females, with increasing maternal age representing a major risk factor. It was recently reported that histones are globally deacetylated in mammalian oocytes during meiosis but not mitosis. In the present study, inhibition of meiotic histone deacetylation was found to induce aneuploidy in fertilized mouse oocytes, which resulted in embryonic death in utero at an early stage of development. In addition, a histone remained acetylated in the oocytes of older (10-month-old) female mice, suggesting that the function for histone deacetylation is decreased in the oocytes of such mice. Thus, histone deacetylation may be involved in the fair distribution of chromosomes during meiotic division. The high incidence of aneuploidy in the embryos of older females may be due to inadequate meiotic histone deacetylation.
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