Human chromosome deletions in Yq11, AZF candidate genes and male infertility: history and update

Mol Hum Reprod. 1998 Aug;4(8):739-44. doi: 10.1093/molehr/4.8.739.


Human chromosome deletions in Yq11 seem to occur frequently as de novo mutation events in men with idiopathic azoospermia or severe oligozoospermia. However, the molecular extensions of these deletions are variable. They can be large and therefore visible under the microscope or small, not visible under the microscope, and containing the deletion of one or more DNA loci recently mapped in an apparently consecutive order along the Yq11 chromosome region. The results of 20 extensive microdeletion screening programmes have now corroborated the prevalence of the deletion of three non-overlapping DNA regions in proximal, middle and distal Yq11, which were designated earlier as AZFa, AZFb and AZFc. Deletions of single DNA loci were also reported, but as de novo and as polymorphic mutation events. Their clinical significance with regard to the men's infertility should therefore initially be handled with caution. Multiple Y genes expressed in human testis have now been mapped to each AZF region. At least one of them should be functional in human spermatogenesis and, if mutated, cause azoospermia. However, gene-specific mutations leading to the azoospermia phenotype have not yet been found for any of these AZF candidate genes. This might raise the question as to whether an AZF gene really exists in Yq11 or if the azoospermia phenotypes are only observed after deletion of a complete AZF region, after deletion of its complete gene content.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Factors / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Deleted in Azoospermia 1 Protein
  • Gene Deletion
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • Oligospermia / genetics*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Sex-Determining Region Y Protein
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Y Chromosome*


  • Biological Factors
  • DAZ1 protein, human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Deleted in Azoospermia 1 Protein
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RBMY1A1 protein, human
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Sex-Determining Region Y Protein
  • Transcription Factors