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What is Monosomy?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Monosomy is a genetic defect caused by an incomplete set of chromosomes. Various medical conditions are caused by monosomy, some more severe than others. Along with other genetic defects, monosomy can often be identified during prenatal testing, which is why such testing is recommended for women who are at high risk. It is certainly possible for someone to live a healthy and normal life with monosomy, just as other people may be severely disabled by the condition.

Like other chromosomal defects, monosomy is considered a type of aneuploidy. Aneupolidy refers to an abnormality in the chromosomes, leading to birth defects or fetal non-viability. It is most often caused by errors during meiosis, when chromosomes fail to divide properly for any number of reasons. When egg and sperm cells meet, the aneupoloidy results in an incomplete set of chromosomes for the developing fetus. In other cases, the error happens during the complex cell duplication which creates a viable fetus, meaning that the defect is present in some tissues but not in others, a phenomenon called mosaicism.

In complete monosomy, one side of a chromosome pair is simply missing. One example of this type of monosomy is Turner Syndrome, where the X chromosome is missing a complementary chromosome. A number of developmental disabilities are caused by Turner Syndrome, including severe problems like congenital heart disease. However, it is also possible for patients to have a perfectly healthy life with the condition, as long as it is well managed.

Sometimes, part of a pairing chromosome is transferred, causing partial monosomy. In this case, missing genetic information can cause an assortment of problems, including Le Jeune's Syndrome, the result of partial monosomy on chromosome 5. The syndrome is characterized by a number of symptoms, particularly a malformed larynx which causes the voice of the patient to sound strangely high pitched. Developmental disabilities may also be present.

Prenatal testing such as an amniocentesis can reveal monosomy. It is important to receive genetic counseling when undertaking such testing, as test results can be very complicated. After such testing, a doctor will typically call parents in to discuss the results. A negative result indicates that no abnormalities were detected, while a positive result suggests that a problem may be present, and that the parents may have to explore various options for dealing with it. As with all medical testing, false negatives and positives do happen, so parents should always follow up with additional testing and counseling before reaching a decision about how to proceed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By ElizaBennett — On May 21, 2011

Most babies with any sort of monosomy--or trisomy, for that matter--are miscarried or stillborn. The vast majority of babies conceived with Turner Syndrome won't make it to birth. Apparently, that's actually one of the controversies with early amniocentesis. Not only is it more dangerous, but it can detect a problem in a pregnancy that was going to end in spontaneous abortion.

If an amnio shows, for instance, trisomy 13, the parents will have to do a lot of soul-searching and might decide to end the pregnancy when if nature had taken its course, a miscarriage might have happened soon.

By jennythelib — On May 20, 2011

@behaviourism - I believe you're right. At any rate, any problem with the sex chromosome, whether monosomy or an excess of chromosomes like Klinefelter syndrome, is likely to cause that. Females with Turner syndrome never even go through puberty.

What I learned in school is the aneuploidy of the sex chromosomes is more likely to be the kind of thing a person can survive than aneuploidy involving any other chromosomes. The sex chromosomes don't carry as much information or something.

I'm not sure if there are any complete monosomy disorders besides Turner syndrome. It seems like otherwise they tend to be partial monosomies, like with monosomy 18p.

By behaviourism — On Feb 22, 2011

People with monosomy disorders are also generally infertile; not having a full pair of chromosomes makes it hard for the body to determine what gene to pass on. At least, that's what I have learned, though I'm sure this is not the most scientific way to describe it.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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