Biallelic mutations of CFAP251 cause sperm flagellar defects and human male infertility

J Hum Genet. 2019 Jan;64(1):49-54. doi: 10.1038/s10038-018-0520-1. Epub 2018 Oct 11.


Multiple morphological abnormalities of flagella (MMAF) are human reproduction disorders due to the dysplastic development of sperm flagella. The spermatozoa of men with MMAF manifest absent, short, coiled, bent, and/or irregular-caliber flagella. Previous studies revealed genetic contributions to human MMAF, but known MMAF-associated genes only explained approximately 50% MMAF cases. In this study, we employed human whole-exome sequencing for genetic analysis and identified biallelic mutations of CFAP251 (cilia- and flagella-associated protein 251, also known as WDR66) in three (5%) of 65 Han Chinese men with MMAF. All these CFAP251 mutations are loss-of-function. The population genome data suggested that these CFAP251 mutations are extremely rare (only heterozygous) or absent from human populations. Our functional assays of gene expression and immunofluorescence staining in a CFAP251-deficient man, together with previous experimental evidence from model organisms, suggested that CFAP251 is involved in flagellar functions. Our observations suggested that CFAP251 is associated with sperm flagellar development and human male infertility.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Homozygote*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Infertility, Male / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Pedigree
  • Prognosis
  • Sperm Tail / metabolism
  • Sperm Tail / pathology*
  • Whole Exome Sequencing


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • WDR66 protein, human