Absence of CFAP69 Causes Male Infertility due to Multiple Morphological Abnormalities of the Flagella in Human and Mouse

Dong, Frederick N and Amiri-Yekta, Amir and Martinez, Guillaume and Saut, Antoine and Tek, Julie and Stouvenel, Laurence and Lorès, Patrick and Karaouzène, Thomas and Thierry-Mieg, Nicolas and Satre, Véronique and Brouillet, Sophie and Daneshipour, Abbas and Hosseini, Seyedeh Hanieh and Bonhivers, Mélanie and Gourabi, Hamid and Dulioust, Emmanuel and Arnoult, Christophe and Touré, Aminata and Ray, Pierre F and Zhao, Haiqing and Coutton, Charles


The multiple morphological abnormalities of the flagella (MMAF) phenotype is among the most severe forms of sperm defects responsible for male infertility. The phenotype is characterized by the presence in the ejaculate of immotile spermatozoa with severe flagellar abnormalities including flagella being short, coiled, absent, and of irregular caliber. Recent studies have demonstrated that MMAF is genetically heterogeneous, and genes thus far associated with MMAF account for only one-third of cases. Here we report the identification of homozygous truncating mutations (one stop-gain and one splicing variant) in CFAP69 of two unrelated individuals by whole-exome sequencing of a cohort of 78 infertile men with MMAF. CFAP69 encodes an evolutionarily conserved protein found at high levels in the testis. Immunostaining experiments in sperm from fertile control individuals showed that CFAP69 localized to the midpiece of the flagellum, and the absence of CFAP69 was confirmed in both individuals carrying CFPA69 mutations. Additionally, we found that sperm from a Cfap69 knockout mouse model recapitulated the MMAF phenotype. Ultrastructural analysis of testicular sperm from the knockout mice showed severe disruption of flagellum structure, but histological analysis of testes from these mice revealed the presence of all stages of the seminiferous epithelium, indicating that the overall progression of spermatogenesis is preserved and that the sperm defects likely arise during spermiogenesis. Together, our data indicate that CFAP69 is necessary for flagellum assembly/stability and that in both humans and mice, biallelic truncating mutations in CFAP69 cause autosomal-recessive MMAF and primary male infertility.