Genome-wide association study identifies candidate genes for male fertility traits in humans

Am J Hum Genet. 2012 Jun 8;90(6):950-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.04.016. Epub 2012 May 24.


Despite the fact that hundreds of genes are known to affect fertility in animal models, relatively little is known about genes that influence natural fertility in humans. To broadly survey genes contributing to variation in male fertility, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of two fertility traits (family size and birth rate) in 269 married men who are members of a founder population of European descent that proscribes contraception and has large family sizes. Associations between ∼250,000 autosomal SNPs and the fertility traits were examined. A total of 41 SNPs with p ≤ 1 × 10(-4) for either trait were taken forward to a validation study of 123 ethnically diverse men from Chicago who had previously undergone semen analyses. Nine (22%) of the SNPs associated with reduced fertility in the GWAS were also associated with one or more of the ten measures of reduced sperm quantity and/or function, yielding 27 associations with p values < 0.05 and seven with p values < 0.01 in the validation study. On the basis of 5,000 permutations of our data, the probabilities of observing this many or more small p values were 0.0014 and 5.6 × 10(-4), respectively. Among the nine associated loci, outstanding candidates for male fertility genes include USP8, an essential deubiquitinating enzyme that has a role in acrosome assembly; UBD and EPSTI1, which have potential roles in innate immunity; and LRRC32, which encodes a latent transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) receptor on regulatory T cells. We suggest that mutations in these genes that are more severe may account for some of the unexplained infertility (or subfertility) in the general population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Birth Rate
  • Chicago
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Europe
  • Fertility*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Statistical
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Semen
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • South Dakota