Trisomy 21 results in Down's syndrome, but little is known about how a 1.5-fold increase in gene dosage produces the pleiotropic phenotypes of Down's syndrome. Here we report that two genes, DSCR1 and DYRK1A , lie within the critical region of human chromosome 21 and act synergistically to prevent nuclear occupancy of NFATc transcription factors, which are regulators of vertebrate development. We use mathematical modelling to predict that autoregulation within the pathway accentuates the effects of trisomy of DSCR1 and DYRK1A, leading to failure to activate NFATc target genes under specific conditions. Our observations of calcineurin-and Nfatc-deficient mice, Dscr1- and Dyrk1a-overexpressing mice, mouse models of Down's syndrome and human trisomy 21 are consistent with these predictions. We suggest that the 1.5-fold increase in dosage of DSCR1 and DYRK1A cooperatively destabilizes a regulatory circuit, leading to reduced NFATc activity and many of the features of Down's syndrome. More generally, these observations suggest that the destabilization of regulatory circuits can underlie human disease. Down's syndrome Down's syndrome is caused by an extra chromosome; somehow a 1.5-fold increase in the dosage of a gene or genes on chromosome 21 causes the wide-reaching effects associated with the condition. A study using 'knockout' mice now identifies two genes as candidates for involvement. A 1.5-fold increase in dosage of DSCR1 and DYRK1a destabilizes the regulation of signalling pathways involving the NFAT transcription factor. The discovery follows the surprise finding that NFATc1-4 and calcineurin mutant mice demonstrate nearly all the characteristics of Down's syndrome. In an unrelated paper, a genome-wide RNAi screen reveals conserved regulators of NFAT in Drosophila. NFAT is a purely vertebrate transcription factor, but this work breaks new ground by using Drosophila cells to study the function of a protein artificially introduced from a mammalian species. Pathways regulating the subcellular localization of NFAT proteins are strongly conserved across species and this new approach can identify new regulators of a transcription factor normally expressed in vertebrates.