Novel biallelic variants in DNAH1 cause multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella with favorable outcomes of fertility after ICSI in Han Chinese males

Andrology. 2024 Feb;12(2):349-364. doi: 10.1111/andr.13476. Epub 2023 Jun 20.


Background: Multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella is an idiopathic asthenoteratozoospermia characterized by absent, short, coiled, angulation, and irregular-caliber flagella. Genetic variants of DNAH1 gene have been identified as a causative factor of multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella and intracytoplasmic sperm injection is an available strategy for infertile males with dynein axonemal heavy chain 1 defects to conceive.

Objectives: To identify novel variants and candidate mutant hotspots of DNAH1 gene related to multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella and male infertility in humans.

Materials and methods: The DNAH1 variants were identified by whole exome sequencing and confirmed with Sanger sequencing. Papanicolaou staining, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and immunostaining were performed to investigate the morphological and ultrastructural characteristics of spermatozoa. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection was applied for the assisted reproductive therapy of males harboring biallelic DNAH1 variants.

Results: We identified 18 different DNAH1 variants in 11 unrelated families, including nine missense variants (p.A2564T, p.T3657R, p.G1862R, p.L2296P, p.T4041I, p.L611P, p.A913D, p.R1932Q, p.R2356W) and nine loss-of-function variants (c.2301-1G>T, p.Q1518*, p.R1702*, p.D2845Mfs*2, p.P3909Rfs*33, p.Q4040Dfs*33, p.Q4058*, p.E4060Pfs*61, p.V4071Cfs*54). A total of 66.7% (12/18) of the identified variants were novel. Morphological analysis based on Papanicolaou staining and scanning electron microscopy demonstrated the typical multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella characteristics of dynein axonemal heavy chain 1-deficient spermatozoa. Immunostaining further revealed the absence of inner dynein arms but not outer dynein arms, which induced a general ultrastructural disorganization, such as the loss of central pair and mis-localization of the microtubule doublets and outer dense fibers. To date, seven affected couples have accepted the intracytoplasmic sperm injection treatment, and three of them have given birth to five healthy babies.

Discussion and conclusion: These findings further expand the variant spectrum of DNAH1 gene related to multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella and male infertility in humans, thus providing new information for the molecular diagnosis of asthenoteratozoospermia. The favorable fertility outcomes of intracytoplasmic sperm injection will facilitate the genetic counseling and clinical treatment of infertile males with multiple morphological abnormalities of sperm flagella in the future.

Keywords: DNAH1; MMAF; asthenoteratozoospermia; intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

MeSH terms

  • Asthenozoospermia* / genetics
  • China
  • Dyneins / genetics
  • Fertility
  • Flagella / genetics
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male* / genetics
  • Infertility, Male* / therapy
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Semen
  • Sperm Injections, Intracytoplasmic
  • Sperm Tail
  • Spermatozoa


  • Dyneins
  • DNAH1 protein, human