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Andrology. 2014 May;2(3):315-21. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-2927.2014.00188.x. Epub 2014 Feb 19.

Genetic susceptibility to male infertility: news from genome-wide association studies.

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Department of Surgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.


A thorough understanding of the genetic basis of male infertility has eluded researchers in spite of significant efforts to identify novel genetic causes of the disease, particularly over the past decade. Approximately half of male factor infertility cases have no known cause; however, it is likely that the majority of idiopathic male factor infertility cases have some unidentified genetic basis. Well-established genetic causes of male infertility are limited to Y chromosome microdeletions and Klinefelter's syndrome, together accounting for 10-20% of cases of severe spermatogenic failure. In addition to these, several genetic polymorphisms have been demonstrated to be significantly associated with male infertility. The discovery of new genetic associations with male infertility has been hampered by two primary factors. First, most studies are underpowered because of insufficient sample size and ethnic and phenotypic heterogeneity. Second, most studies evaluate a single gene, an approach that is very inefficient in the context of male infertility, considering that many hundreds of genes are involved in the process of testicular development and spermatogenesis. Significant recent advances in microarray and next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled the application of whole-genome approaches to the study of male infertility. We recently performed a pilot genome-wide association study (GWAS) for severe spermatogenic failure, and several additional male infertility GWAS have since been published. More recently, genomic microarray tools have been applied to the association of copy number variants with male infertility. These studies are beginning to shed additional light on the genetic architecture of male infertility, and whole-genome studies have proven effective in identifying novel genetic causes of the disease. This review will discuss some of the recent findings of these whole-genome studies as well as future directions for this research that will likely be the most productive moving forward.


copy number variant; gene mutation; gene polymorphism; gene sequencing; genetic disorders; genome studies; genome-wide association study; male infertility; microarray; single-nucleotide polymorphism; whole genome sequencing

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