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Reprod Biomed Online. 2005 Jan;10(1):42-8.

Molecular pathology of the androgen receptor in male (in)fertility.

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Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Sir Mortimer B Davis Jewish General Hospital, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


Idiopathic male infertility, accounting for 40% of all male infertility cases, is postulated to have a genetic basis. The androgen receptor (AR) plays a crucial post-meiotic role during male germ cell differentiation, which includes terminal differentiation of spermatids and their release from the seminiferous epithelium. Mutations in the AR gene result in a condition known as androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) affecting normal male morphogenesis. Depending on the severity of the syndrome, the external phenotype can range from normal female to normal male. In almost all cases affected individuals are infertile. In seven reported cases individuals appeared to suffer primarily or solely from male infertility, suggesting these AR mutations specifically cause male infertility. Three of these mutations are possibly population specific. Longer CAG repeats present in exon 1 of the AR have been studied as a possible risk factor for male infertility. Results are contradictory, with a trend to significance (Asian populations) and non-significance (European populations). Recent advances in protein modelling techniques may result in a much better understanding of the mechanism of action of the known infertility mutations. The determination of the significance of longer CAG repeats is likely to require studies that examine CAG repeat lengths in spermatozoa as well as patients' blood.

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