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Exome sequencing reveals pathogenic variants in known and novel candidate genes for severe sperm motility disorders

STUDY QUESTION: What are the causative genetic variants in patients with male infertility due to severe sperm motility disorders? SUMMARY ANSWER: We identified high confidence disease-causing variants in multiple genes previously associated with severe sperm motility disorders in 9 out of 21 patients (43%). We also identified variants in novel candidate genes in 8 additional patients (38%). WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Severe sperm motility disorders are a form of male infertility characterised by vital, but immotile sperm often in combination with a spectrum of structural abnormalities of the sperm flagellum. Examples of this spectrum of disorders include dysplasia of the fibrous sheath / multiple morphological abnormalities of the sperm flagella (DFS-MMAF) and severe forms of asthenozoospermia associated to non-specific structural defects. These disorders frequently recur in families and may include chronic respiratory disease. As such, genetic causes are suspected and many genes have recently been reported. Currently, depending on the clinical sub-categorisation, up to 50% of causality in patients with severe sperm motility disorders can be explained by pathogenic variants in at least 21 known genes. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: We performed exome sequencing in patients with severe sperm motility disorders from two different clinics, aiming to identify the underlying genetic defects and establishing a diagnostic yield in both. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHOD: Two groups of infertile men, one from Argentina (n= 9) and one from Australia (n=12), with clinically defined sperm motility disorders were included. All patients in the Argentine cohort were diagnosed with DFS-MMAF, based on transmission electron microscopy. Exome sequencing was performed in all 21 patients and variants with an allele frequency of <1% in the gnomAD population were prioritised and interpreted. MAIN RESULTS AND ROLE OF CHANCE: In 9/21 patients (43%), we identified pathogenic variants in known sperm motility disorder genes: CFAP43 (3 patients); CFAP44 (2 patients), QRICH2 (2 patients), DNAH1 (1 patient) and DNAH6 (1 patient). The diagnostic rate did not differ markedly between the Argentinian and the Australian cohort (44% and 42%, respectively). Furthermore, we identified patients with variants in the novel candidate sperm motility genes CFAP58, DNAH12, DRC1, MDC1, PACRG, SSPL2C and TPTE2. One patient presented with two possibly damaging variants in four candidate genes and it remains unclear which variants were responsible for the severe sperm motility defect in this patient. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: In this study, we described patients with potential bi-allelic variants in known and novel candidate genes for severe sperm motility disorders. Due to unavailability of parental DNA, we have not assessed de novo or maternally inherited dominant variants and could not phase the mutations to establish in all cases that the mutations occur on both alleles. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Our results confirm an important role for five known genes for sperm motility and we demonstrate that exome sequencing is an effective method to diagnose patients with severe sperm motility defects (9/21 diagnosed; 43%). Furthermore, our analysis revealed seven novel candidate genes for severe sperm motility disorders. Genome-wide sequencing of additional patient cohorts and re-analysis of exome data of currently unsolved cases may reveal additional variants in these novel candidate genes.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001007085 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 NextSeq 500 21
Publications Citations
Exome sequencing reveals variants in known and novel candidate genes for severe sperm motility disorders.
Hum Reprod 36: 2021 2597-2611