A Homozygous Ancestral SVA-Insertion-Mediated Deletion in WDR66 Induces Multiple Morphological Abnormalities of the Sperm Flagellum and Male Infertility

Kherraf, Zine-Eddine and Amiri-Yekta, Amir and Dacheux, Denis and Karaouzène, Thomas and Coutton, Charles and Christou-Kent, Marie and Martinez, Guillaume and Landrein, Nicolas and Le Tanno, Pauline and Fourati Ben Mustapha, Selima and Halouani, Lazhar and Marrakchi, Ouafi and Makni, Mounir and Latrous, Habib and Kharouf, Mahmoud and Pernet-Gallay, Karin and Gourabi, Hamid and Robinson, Derrick R and Crouzy, Serge and Blum, Michael and Thierry-Mieg, Nicolas and Touré, Aminata and Zouari, Raoudha and Arnoult, Christophe and Bonhivers, Mélanie and Ray, Pierre F


Multiple morphological abnormalities of the sperm flagellum (MMAF) is a severe form of male infertility defined by the presence of a mosaic of anomalies, including short, bent, curled, thick, or absent flagella, resulting from a severe disorganization of the axoneme and of the peri-axonemal structures. Mutations in DNAH1, CFAP43, and CFAP44, three genes encoding axoneme-related proteins, have been described to account for approximately 30% of the MMAF cases reported so far. Here, we searched for pathological copy-number variants in whole-exome sequencing data from a cohort of 78 MMAF-affected subjects to identify additional genes associated with MMAF. In 7 of 78 affected individuals, we identified a homozygous deletion that removes the two penultimate exons of WDR66 (also named CFAP251), a gene coding for an axonemal protein preferentially localized in the testis and described to localize to the calmodulin- and spoke-associated complex at the base of radial spoke 3. Sequence analysis of the breakpoint region revealed in all deleted subjects the presence of a single chimeric SVA (SINE-VNTR-Alu) at the breakpoint site, suggesting that the initial deletion event was potentially mediated by an SVA insertion-recombination mechanism. Study of Trypanosoma WDR66’s ortholog (TbWDR66) highlighted high sequence and structural analogy with the human protein and confirmed axonemal localization of the protein. Reproduction of the human deletion in TbWDR66 impaired flagellar movement, thus confirming WDR66 as a gene associated with the MMAF phenotype and highlighting the importance of the WDR66 C-terminal region.