Author(s): Jenkins EC , Schupf N, Genovese M, Ye LL, Kapell D
During a study of the familial aggregation of Down syndrome (DS) and Alzheimer disease (AD), we observed an increase in mosaicism for disomy 21 in older individuals with DS. In a total of 213 DS subjects who were studied cytogenetically, only 1 of 121 (0.8%) under age 45 exhibited mosaicism, while 14 of 92 (15.2%) who were age 45 or older had mosaicism. Mosaicism in this report connotes "low-level" mosaicism, where all 15 individuals exhibited a modal chromosome number of 47 (i.e., trisomy 21), and at least two cells lacked one of the three chromosomes 21. The occurrence of aneuploidy for chromosomes 15, 17, and X increased with age, and an inverse correlation between chromosome loss and size was also observed. Because older individuals had not been karyotyped at birth, it was not possible to determine whether our observations were due to either increased survival of mosaic individuals or accumulation of disomy 21 cells via increased chromosome loss with aging of the trisomy 21 individual. Using a modeling approach involving life table methods, we obtained results that suggested acquired mosaicism as the predominant mechanism to explain our findings. These results support the hypothesis that as individuals with DS age, there is an increased loss of chromosome 21.