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Men homozygous for an inactivating mutation of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) receptor gene present variable suppression of spermatogenesis and fertility


Gonadal function is controlled by the two pituitary gonadotropins, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). While LH mainly regulates gonadal steroidogenesis, FSH is considered essential for folliculogenesis in the female and spermatogenesis in the male. We recently discovered that an inactivating point mutation in the FSH receptor (R) gene causes a recessively inherited form of hypergonadotropic ovarian failure in homozygous females1. This 566C→T mutation, predicting an alanine to valine substitution, is located in exon 7 of the FSHR gene, in the region encoding the extracellular domain of the receptor molecule. Functional testing showed a clear-cut reduction in ligand binding and signal transduction by the mutated receptor. Hence, lack of FSH function is incompatible with ovarian follicular maturation and female fertility. In the male, FSH is generally considered essential for the pubertal initiation of spermatogenesis and maintenance of quantitatively normal sperm production in adults2–5. We report here the first characterization of males homozygous for an inactivating FSHR mutation. They have variable degrees of spermatogenic failure, but, surprisingly, do not show azoospermia or absolute infertility. These results question the essential role of FSH for the initiation of spermatogenesis, and demonstrate that FSH is more important for female than for male fertility.

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Tapanainen, J., Aittomäki, K., Min, J. et al. Men homozygous for an inactivating mutation of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) receptor gene present variable suppression of spermatogenesis and fertility. Nat Genet 15, 205–206 (1997).

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