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Genes Cells. 2014 Jan;19(1):13-27. doi: 10.1111/gtc.12105. Epub 2013 Nov 19.

Oligo-astheno-teratozoospermia in mice lacking ORP4, a sterol-binding protein in the OSBP-related protein family.

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Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan.


Oligo-astheno-teratozoospermia (OAT), a condition that includes low sperm number, low sperm motility and abnormal sperm morphology, is the commonest cause of male infertility. Because genetic analysis is frequently impeded by the infertility phenotype, the genetic basis of many of OAT conditions has been hard to verify. Here, we show that deficiency of ORP4, a sterol-binding protein in the oxysterol-binding protein (OSBP)-related protein family, causes male infertility due to severe OAT in mice. In ORP4-deficient mice, spermatogonia proliferation and subsequent meiosis occurred normally, but the morphology of elongating and elongated spermatids was severely distorted, with round-shaped head, curled back head or symplast. Spermatozoa derived from ORP4-deficient mice had little or no motility and no fertilizing ability in vitro. In ORP4-deficient testis, postmeiotic spermatids underwent extensive apoptosis, leading to a severely reduced number of spermatozoa. At the ultrastructural level, nascent acrosomes appeared to normally develop in round spermatids, but acrosomes were detached from the nucleus in elongating spermatids. These results suggest that ORP4 is essential for the postmeiotic differentiation of germ cells.

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