Mutations in DNAH17, Encoding a Sperm-Specific Axonemal Outer Dynein Arm Heavy Chain, Cause Isolated Male Infertility Due to Asthenozoospermia

Whitfield, Marjorie and Thomas, Lucie and Bequignon, Emilie and Schmitt, Alain and Stouvenel, Laurence and Montantin, Guy and Tissier, Sylvie and Duquesnoy, Philippe and Copin, Bruno and Chantot, Sandra and Dastot, Florence and Faucon, Catherine and Barbotin, Anne Laure and Loyens, Anne and Siffroi, Jean-Pierre and Papon, Jean-François and Escudier, Estelle and Amselem, Serge and Mitchell, Valérie and Touré, Aminata and Legendre, Marie


Motile cilia and sperm flagella share an evolutionarily conserved axonemal structure. Their structural and/or functional defects are associated with primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a genetic disease characterized by chronic respiratory-tract infections and in which most males are infertile due to asthenozoospermia. Among the well-characterized axonemal protein complexes, the outer dynein arms (ODAs), through ATPase activity of their heavy chains (HCs), play a major role for cilia and flagella beating. However, the contribution of the different HCs (γ-type: DNAH5 and DNAH8 and β-type: DNAH9, DNAH11, and DNAH17) in ODAs from both organelles is unknown. By analyzing five male individuals who consulted for isolated infertility and displayed a loss of ODAs in their sperm cells but not in their respiratory cells, we identified bi-allelic mutations in DNAH17. The isolated infertility phenotype prompted us to compare the protein composition of ODAs in the sperm and ciliary axonemes from control individuals. We show that DNAH17 and DNAH8, but not DNAH5, DNAH9, or DNAH11, colocalize with α-tubulin along the sperm axoneme, whereas the reverse picture is observed in respiratory cilia, thus explaining the phenotype restricted to sperm cells. We also demonstrate the loss of function associated with DNAH17 mutations in two unrelated individuals by performing immunoblot and immunofluorescence analyses on sperm cells; these analyses indicated the absence of DNAH17 and DNAH8, whereas DNAH2 and DNALI, two inner dynein arm components, were present. Overall, this study demonstrates that mutations in DNAH17 are responsible for isolated male infertility and provides information regarding ODA composition in human spermatozoa.