Increasing age in a woman is a well-documented risk factor for meiotic errors, but the effect of paternal age is less clear. Although it is generally agreed that spermatogenesis declines with age, the mechanisms that account for this remain unclear. Because meiosis involves a complex and tightly regulated series of processes that include DNA replication, DNA repair, and cell cycle regulation, we postulated that the effects of age might be evident as an increase in the frequency of meiotic errors. Accordingly, we analyzed spermatogenesis in male mice of different ages, examining meiotic chromosome dynamics in spermatocytes at prophase, at metaphase I, and at metaphase II. Our analyses demonstrate that recombination levels are reduced in the first wave of spermatogenesis in juvenile mice but increase in older males. We also observed age-dependent increases in XY chromosome pairing failure at pachytene and in the frequency of prematurely separated autosomal homologs at metaphase I. However, we found no evidence of an age-related increase in aneuploidy at metaphase II, indicating that cells harboring meiotic errors are eliminated by cycle checkpoint mechanisms, regardless of paternal age. Taken together, our data suggest that advancing paternal age affects pairing, synapsis, and recombination between homologous chromosomes--and likely results in reduced sperm counts due to germ cell loss--but is not an important contributor to aneuploidy.
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