Y chromosome microdeletions and alterations of spermatogenesis

Endocr Rev. 2001 Apr;22(2):226-39. doi: 10.1210/edrv.22.2.0425.


Three different spermatogenesis loci have been mapped on the Y chromosome and named "azoospermia factors" (AZFa, b, and c). Deletions in these regions remove one or more of the candidate genes (DAZ, RBMY, USP9Y, and DBY) and cause severe testiculopathy leading to male infertility. We have reviewed the literature and the most recent advances in Y chromosome mapping, focusing our attention on the correlation between Y chromosome microdeletions and alterations of spermatogenesis. More than 4,800 infertile patients were screened for Y microdeletions and published. Such deletions determine azoospermia more frequently than severe oligozoospermia and involve especially the AZFc region including the DAZ gene family. Overall, the prevalence of Y chromosome microdeletions is 4% in oligozoospermic patients, 14% in idiopathic severely oligozoospermic men, 11% in azoospermic men, and 18% in idiopathic azoospermic subjects. Patient selection criteria appear to substantially influence the prevalence of microdeletions. No clear correlation exists between the size and localization of the deletions and the testicular phenotype. However, it is clear that larger deletions are associated with the most severe testicular damage. Patients with Y chromosome deletions frequently have sperm either in the ejaculate or within the testis and are therefore suitable candidates for assisted reproduction techniques. This possibility raises a number of medical and ethical concerns, since the use of spermatozoa carrying Y chromosome deletions may produce pregnancies, but in such cases the genetic anomaly will invariably be passed on to male offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Aberrations / genetics
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / etiology
  • Infertility, Male / genetics
  • Male
  • Oligospermia / complications
  • Oligospermia / genetics
  • Patient Selection
  • Phenotype
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Spermatogenesis* / genetics
  • Y Chromosome / genetics*


  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone