Emerging evidence for the role of genomic instability in male factor infertility

Syst Biol Reprod Med. 2012 Apr;58(2):71-80. doi: 10.3109/19396368.2011.635751. Epub 2011 Dec 6.


Male infertility is a common and complex pathology affecting about 7% of men of reproductive age. Given its complexity, the underlying etiology for male infertility is often unknown. A growing amount of evidence suggests genomic instability may be an important factor in some cases of male factor infertility. While some specific manifestations of genomic instability, such as increased sperm aneuploidy rates and increased somatic translocations and inversions in infertile men, are well established, other facets of genomic instability associated with male infertility have not been thoroughly investigated. A limited body of recent work has identified a potential association between microsatellite instability and spermatogenic failure. In addition, mutations in mismatch repair and tumor suppressor genes, which could potentially lead to genomic instability, have been identified in some infertile men and animal models. In addition, results of two epidemiologic studies suggest spermatogenic defects might be just one aspect of a more systemic problem, possibly due to increased genomic instability. In this review we discuss well-established links between genomic instability and male infertility, as well as some of the emerging but less established data to support this relationship. We also propose some important areas of future research toward a more complete understanding of the underlying mechanisms for male infertility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Dosage
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Spermatozoa / physiology