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J Genet Genomics. 2008 Apr;35(4):193-9. doi: 10.1016/S1673-8527(08)60027-2.

"Micro-deletions" of the human Y chromosome and their relationship with male infertility.

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Renji Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai Institute of Andrology, Shanghai 200001, China.


The Y chromosome evolves from an autochromosome and accumulates male-related genes including sex-determining region of Y-chromosome (SRY) and several spermatogenesis-related genes. The human Y chromosome (60 Mb long) is largely composed of repetitive sequences that give it a heterochromatic appearance, and it consists of pseudoautosomal, euchromatic, and heterochromatic regions. Located on the two extremities of the Y chromosome, pseudoautosomal regions 1 and 2 (PAR1 and PAR2, 2.6 Mb and 320 bp long, respectively) are homologs with the termini of the X chromosome. The euchromatic region and some of the repeat-rich heterochromatic parts of the Y chromosome are called "male-specific Y" (MSY), which occupy more than 95% of the whole Y chromosome. After evolution, the Y chromosome becomes the smallest in size with the least number of genes but with the most number of copies of genes that are mostly spermatogenesis-related. The Y chromosome is characterized by highly repetitive sequences (including direct repeats, inverted repeats, and palindromes) and high polymorphism. Several gene rearrangements on the Y chromosome occur during evolution owing to its specific gene structure. The consequences of such rearrangements are not only loss but also gain of specific genes. One hundred and fifty three haplotypes have been discovered in the human Y chromosome. The structure of the Y chromosome in the GenBank belongs to haplotype R1. There are 220 genes (104 coding genes, 111 pseudogenes, and 5 other uncategorized genes) according to the most recent count. The 104 coding genes encode a total of about 48 proteins/protein families (including putative proteins/protein families). Among them, 16 gene products have been discovered in the azoospermia factor region (AZF) and are related to spermatogenesis. It has been discovered that one subset of gene rearrangements on the Y chromosome, "micro-deletions", is a major cause of male infertility in some populations. However, controversies exist about different Y chromosome haplotypes. Six AZFs of the Y chromosome have been discovered including AZFa, AZFb, AZFc, and their combinations AZFbc, AZFabc, and partial AZFc called AZFc/gr/gr. Different deletions in AZF lead to different content spermatogenesis loss from teratozoospermia to infertility in different populations depending on their Y haplotypes. This article describes the structure of the human Y chromosome and investigates the causes of micro-deletions and their relationship with male infertility from the view of chromosome evolution. After analysis of the relationship between AZFc and male infertility, we concluded that spermatogenesis is controlled by a network of genes, which may locate on the Y chromosome, the autochromosomes, or even on the X chromosome. Further investigation of the molecular mechanisms underlying male fertility/infertility will facilitate our knowledge of functional genomics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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