Recombination between palindromes P5 and P1 on the human Y chromosome causes massive deletions and spermatogenic failure.
It is widely believed that at least three nonoverlapping regions of the human Y chromosome-AZFa, AZFb, and AZFc ("azoospermia factors" a, b, and c)-are essential for normal spermatogenesis. These intervals are defined by interstitial Y-chromosome deletions that impair or extinguish spermatogenesis. Deletion breakpoints, mechanisms, and lengths, as well as inventories of affected genes, have been elucidated for deletions of AZFa and of AZFc but not for deletions of AZFb or of AZFb plus AZFc. We studied three deletions of AZFb and eight deletions of AZFb plus AZFc, as assayed by the STSs defining these intervals. Guided by Y-chromosome sequence, we localized breakpoints precisely and were able to sequence nine of the deletion junctions. Homologous recombination can explain seven of these deletions but not the remaining two. This fact and our discovery of breakpoint hotspots suggest that factors in addition to homology underlie these deletions. The deletions previously thought to define AZFb were found to extend from palindrome P5 to the proximal arm of palindrome P1, 1.5 Mb within AZFc. Thus, they do not define a genomic region separate from AZFc. We also found that the deletions of AZFb plus AZFc, as assayed by standard STSs heretofore available, in fact extend from P5 to the distal arm of P1 and spare distal AZFc. Both classes of deletions are massive: P5/proximal-P1 deletions encompass up to 6.2 Mb and remove 32 genes and transcripts; P5/distal-P1 deletions encompass up to 7.7 Mb and remove 42 genes and transcripts. To our knowledge, these are the largest of all human interstitial deletions for which deletion junctions and complete intervening sequence are available. The restriction of the associated phenotype to spermatogenic failure indicates the remarkable functional specialization of the affected regions of the Y chromosome.
Repping, S; Skaletsky, H; Lange, J; Silber, S; Van Der Veen, F; Oates, RD; Page, DC; Rozen, S
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