Novel axonemal protein ZMYND12 interacts with TTC29 and DNAH1, and is required for male fertility and flagellum function

Elife. 2023 Nov 7:12:RP87698. doi: 10.7554/eLife.87698.


Male infertility is common and complex, presenting a wide range of heterogeneous phenotypes. Although about 50% of cases are estimated to have a genetic component, the underlying cause often remains undetermined. Here, from whole-exome sequencing on samples from 168 infertile men with asthenoteratozoospermia due to severe sperm flagellum, we identified homozygous ZMYND12 variants in four unrelated patients. In sperm cells from these individuals, immunofluorescence revealed altered localization of DNAH1, DNALI1, WDR66, and TTC29. Axonemal localization of ZMYND12 ortholog TbTAX-1 was confirmed using the Trypanosoma brucei model. RNAi knock-down of TbTAX-1 dramatically affected flagellar motility, with a phenotype similar to the sperm from men bearing homozygous ZMYND12 variants. Co-immunoprecipitation and ultrastructure expansion microscopy in T. brucei revealed TbTAX-1 to form a complex with TTC29. Comparative proteomics with samples from Trypanosoma and Ttc29 KO mice identified a third member of this complex: DNAH1. The data presented revealed that ZMYND12 is part of the same axonemal complex as TTC29 and DNAH1, which is critical for flagellum function and assembly in humans, and Trypanosoma. ZMYND12 is thus a new asthenoteratozoospermia-associated gene, bi-allelic variants of which cause severe flagellum malformations and primary male infertility.

Keywords: DNAH1; TTC29; Trypanosoma brucei; asthenoteratozoospermia; genetics; genomics; human; male infertility; sperm flagellum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthenozoospermia*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Dyneins
  • Fertility
  • Flagella
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Semen


  • WDR66 protein, human
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • DNAH1 protein, human
  • Dyneins

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection, and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.