Natural transmission of USP9Y gene mutations: a new perspective on the role of AZFa genes in male fertility

Hum Mol Genet. 2006 Sep 15;15(18):2673-81. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddl198. Epub 2006 Aug 7.


Deletions of the azoospermia factor (AZF) regions of the Y chromosome are associated with severe spermatogenic failure and represent the most frequent molecular genetic cause of azoospermia and severe oligozoospermia. The exact role of the candidate AZF genes is largely unknown due to both the extreme rarity of naturally occurring AZF gene-specific mutations and the lack of functional assays. Here, we report the fine characterization of two different deletions in the USP9Y gene (one of the two candidate genes in the AZFa region), which have been transmitted through natural conception in two unrelated families. The associated mild testicular phenotype, in both cases, is in sharp contrast with that of the two previously reported infertile patients bearing a mutation of the same gene. In conclusion, to date, the USP9Y gene has been considered as one of the major Y-linked spermatogenesis genes, based on both its position within the AZFa region and previous reports that correlated USP9Y mutation to severe spermatogenic failure and infertility. This view is now substantially changed because our findings clearly demonstrate that during human spermatogenesis, USP9Y is more likely a fine tuner that improves efficiency, rather than a provider of an essential function. More importantly, the observed natural conceptions suggest that the protein is not required for the final sperm maturation process or for the acquisition of sperm fertilizing ability, providing a new perspective on the role played by the USP9Y gene in male fertility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Endopeptidases / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Loci
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Seminal Plasma Proteins / genetics*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase


  • DNA Primers
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Seminal Plasma Proteins
  • USP9Y protein, human
  • Endopeptidases
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/DQ151535
  • GENBANK/DQ665365
  • GENBANK/DQ665366