Primary azoospermia factor C duplication associated with spermatogenic impariment: a case-control study based on Y-chromosome haplogrouping in a Han Chinese population

Andrology. 2024 Mar;12(3):561-569. doi: 10.1111/andr.13510. Epub 2023 Aug 18.


Background: Azoospermia factor C (AZFc) in the male-specific region of Y-chromosome (MSY) presents wide structure variation mainly due to frequent non-allele homologous recombination, leading to significant copy number variation of the AZFc-linked coding sequences involving in spermatogenesis. A large number of studies had been conducted to investigate the association between AZFc deletions and male infertility in certain Y chromosome genetic backgrounds, however, the influence of primary AZFc duplication on spermatogenesis remained controversial and the cause of the discrepant outcomes is unknown.

Methods: In the present study, a total of 1,102 unrelated Han Chinese males without any detectable AZF deletions were recruited from 2014 to 2019, including 411 controls with normozoospermia and 691 patients with idiopathic spermatogenic failure. Using multiple paralog ratio tests (PRTs), the structure duplications were classified by the copy number of the AZFc-linked amplicons and genes. The Y-chromosome haplogroup (Y-hg) was categorized by genetyping of MSY-linked polymorphism loci. The association of primary AZFc duplication with spermatogenic phenotype was investigated in males with the same Y-hg.

Results: Within Y-hg O3* group, the frequency of the gr/gr duplication in patients is significantly higher than that of controls (P = 1.29×10-3 , odds ratio (OR) 7.64, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.79-32.57). Moreover, Y-hg O3* males with the gr/gr duplication presented a significantly lower sperm production compared with non-AZFc duplicated ones (sperm concentration: P = 1.46×10-3 ; total sperm count: P = 1.82 ×10-3 ). The b2/b3 duplication were identified clustered in Y-hg Cα2*, and the significant difference in the distribution was not observed between patients with spermatogenic failure and controls.

Conclusion: The results suggest that, in the Han Chinese population, the gr/gr duplication is a predisposing genetic factor for spermatogenic impairment in males harboring Y-hg O3* . Meanwhile, the b2/b3 duplication may be fixed on a yet-unidentified subbranch of Y-hg Cα2* without significantly deleterious effect on spermatogenesis. Our findings provide evidence that the difference in the Y-hg composition may cause the discrepancy on the association of AZFc duplication with spermatogenic failure among the studied populations.

Keywords: Y-chromosome haplogroup; copy number variant; male infertility; primary AZFc duplication; spermatogenic impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Azoospermia* / genetics
  • Case-Control Studies
  • China
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male* / genetics
  • Male
  • Mercury*
  • Semen
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics


  • Mercury