Biallelic Variants in CFAP61 Cause Multiple Morphological Abnormalities of the Flagella and Male Infertility

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2022 Jan 31:9:803818. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.803818. eCollection 2021.


Multiple morphological abnormalities of the flagella (MMAF) can lead to male infertility due to impaired sperm motility and morphology. Calmodulin- and spoke-associated complex (CSC) are known for their roles in radial spoke (RS) assembly and ciliary motility in Chlamydomonas, while the role of cilia- and flagella-associated protein 61 (CFAP61), a mammalian ortholog of the CSC subunits, in humans is yet unknown. Here, we recruited three unrelated Pakistani families comprising of 11 infertile male patients diagnosed with MMAF. CFAP61 variants, c.451_452del (p.I151Nfs*4) in family 1 and c.847C > T (p.R283*) in family 2 and 3, were identified recessively co-segregating with the MMAF phenotype. Transmission electron microscopy analyses revealed severe disorganized axonemal ultrastructures, and missings of central pair, RSs, and inner dynein arms were also observed and confirmed by immunofluorescence staining in spermatozoa from patients. CFAP61 and CFAP251 signals were absent from sperm tails of the patients, which suggested the loss of functional CSC in sperm flagella. Altogether, our findings report that homozygous variants in CFAP61 are associated with MMAF and male infertility, demonstrating the essential role of this gene in normal sperm flagellum structure in humans.

Keywords: Cfap61; calmodulin- and spoke-associated complex; central pair; male infertility; multiple morphological abnormalities of flagella.