Background: Sister chromatid cohesion is essential for ordered chromosome segregation at mitosis and meiosis. This is carried out by cohesin complexes, comprising four proteins, which seem to form a ring-like complex. Data from animal models suggest that loss of sister chromatid cohesion may be involved in age-related non-disjunction in human oocytes. Here, we describe the distribution of cohesins throughout meiosis in human oocytes. Methods: We used immunofluorescence in human oocytes at different meiotic stages to detect cohesin subunits REC8, STAG3, SMC1β and SMC3, [also synaptonemal complex (SC) protein 3 and shugoshin 1]. Samples from euploid fetuses and adult women were collected, and 51 metaphase I (MI) and 113 metaphase II (MII) oocytes analyzed. SMC1β transcript levels were quantified in 85 maturing germinal vesicle (GV) oocytes from 34 women aged 19-43 years by real-time PCR. Results:At prophase I, cohesin subunits REC8, STAG3, SMC1β and SMC3 overlapped with the lateral element of the SC. Short cohesin fibers are observed in the oocyte nucleus during dictyate arrest. All four subunits are observed at centromeres and along chromosomal arms, except at chiasmata, at MI and are present at centromeric domains from anaphase I to MII. SMC1β transcripts were detected (with high inter-sample variability) in GV oocytes but no correlation between SMC1β mRNA levels and age was found. Conclusions: The dynamics of cohesins REC8, STAG3, SMC1β and SMC3 suggest their participation in sister chromatid cohesion throughout the whole meiotic process in human oocytes. Our data do not support the view that decreased levels of SMC1β gene expression in older women are involved in age-related non-disjunction. © 2010 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2316-2327
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


  • chromosome non-disjunction
  • cohesin
  • meiosis
  • oocyte
  • sister chromatid cohesion


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