Genome-wide Expression of Azoospermia Testes Demonstrates a Specific Profile and Implicates ART3 in Genetic Susceptibility

PLoS Genet. 2008 Feb;4(2):e26. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0040026.


Infertility affects about one in six couples attempting pregnancy, with the man responsible in approximately half of the cases. Because the pathophysiology underlying azoospermia is not elucidated, most male infertility is diagnosed as idiopathic. Genome-wide gene expression analyses with microarray on testis specimens from 47 non-obstructive azoospermia (NOA) and 11 obstructive azoospermia (OA) patients were performed, and 2,611 transcripts that preferentially included genes relevant to gametogenesis and reproduction according to Gene Ontology classification were found to be differentially expressed. Using a set of 945 of the 2,611 transcripts without missing data, NOA was further categorized into three classes using the non-negative matrix factorization method. Two of the three subclasses were different from the OA group in Johnsen's score, FSH level, and/or LH level, while there were no significant differences between the other subclass and the OA group. In addition, the 52 genes showing high statistical difference between NOA subclasses (p < 0.01 with Tukey's post hoc test) were subjected to allelic association analyses to identify genetic susceptibilities. After two rounds of screening, SNPs of the ADP-ribosyltransferase 3 gene (ART3) were associated with NOA with highest significance with ART3-SNP25 (rs6836703; p = 0.0025) in 442 NOA patients and 475 fertile men. Haplotypes with five SNPs were constructed, and the most common haplotype was found to be under-represented in patients (NOA 26.6% versus control 35.3%, p = 0.000073). Individuals having the most common haplotype showed an elevated level of testosterone, suggesting a protective effect of the haplotype on spermatogenesis. Thus, genome-wide gene expression analyses were used to identify genes involved in the pathogenesis of NOA, and ART3 was subsequently identified as a susceptibility gene for NOA. These findings clarify the molecular pathophysiology of NOA and suggest a novel therapeutic target in the treatment of NOA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADP Ribose Transferases / genetics*
  • ADP Ribose Transferases / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Azoospermia / classification
  • Azoospermia / enzymology*
  • Azoospermia / genetics*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Pregnancy
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics
  • Testis / enzymology*


  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • ADP Ribose Transferases
  • ART3 protein, human