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Hum Reprod. 2007 Nov;22(11):2936-46. Epub 2007 Oct 6.

Cross-platform gene expression signature of human spermatogenic failure reveals inflammatory-like response.

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  • 1Department of Andrology, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.



The molecular basis of human testicular dysfunction is largely unknown. Global gene expression profiling of testicular biopsies might reveal an expression signature of spermatogenic failure in azoospermic men.


Sixty-nine individual testicular biopsy samples were analysed on two microarray platforms; selected genes were validated by quantitative real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry.


A minimum of 188 transcripts were significantly increased on both platforms. Their levels increased with the severity of spermatogenic damage and reached maximum levels in samples with Sertoli-cell-only appearance, pointing to genes expressed in somatic testicular cells. Over-represented functional annotation terms were steroid metabolism, innate defence and immune response, focal adhesion, antigen processing and presentation and mitogen-activated protein kinase K signalling pathway. For a considerable proportion of genes included in the expression signature, individual transcript levels were in keeping with the individual mast cell numbers of the biopsies. When tested on three disparate microarray data sets, the gene expression signature was able to clearly distinguish normal from defective spermatogenesis. More than 90% of biopsy samples clustered correctly into the corresponding category, emphasizing the robustness of our data.


A gene expression signature of human spermatogenic failure was revealed which comprised well-studied examples of inflammation-related genes also increased in other pathologies, including autoimmune diseases.

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