We describe a comparative study of the behavior of nucleolar structures and their relationship with nucleolar chromosomes and synaptonemal complexes at first meiotic prophase of human oocytes in an attempt to elucidate the nature of this cellular organization and to learn more about maternal nondisjunction. The number of main nucleoli varies along the different stages of prophase I and is usually low. It shows an increase from leptotene to pachytene and a decrease from pachytene to diplotene related to a decrease and an increase of main nucleoli volume, respectively. The methodology employed has enabled us to analyze in detail dark bodies, round bodies, dense bodies, and main nucleoli in chromosome or synaptonemal complex spreads. The relationship between nucleolar chromosomes or synaptonemal complexes and the nucleoli implies the existence, in a very reduced space, of chromosomal regions that contain homologous sequences and that are often unpaired. This situation may facilitate the production of heterologous pairing and chromosomal exchanges between nonhomologous chromosomes and finally result in aneuploidy. THus, the situation explained above together with the differences between the oocyte and spermatocyte NOR cycles could be one of the reasons for the higher incidence of aneuploidies of maternal origin at meiosis I. © 1989 Springer-Verlag.