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Novel SPEF2 variants cause male infertility and likely primary ciliary dyskinesia.

PURPOSE: This study aimed to identify the genetic causes of male infertility and primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD)/PCD-like phenotypes in three unrelated Han Chinese families.

METHODS: We conducted whole-exome sequencing of three patients with male infertility and PCD/PCD-like phenotypes from three unrelated Chinese families. Ultrastructural and immunostaining analyses of patient spermatozoa and respiratory cilia and in vitro analyses were performed to analyze the effects of SPEF2 variants. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was administered to three affected patients.

RESULTS: We identified four novel SPEF2 variants, including one novel homozygous splicing site variant [NC_000005.10(NM_024867.4): c.4447 + 1G > A] of the SPEF2 gene in family 1, novel compound heterozygous nonsense variants [NC_000005.10(NM_024867.4): c.1339C > T (p.R447*) and NC_000005.10(NM_024867.4): c.1645G > T (p.E549*)] in family 2, and one novel homozygous missense variant [NC_000005.10(NM_024867.4): c.2524G > A (p.D842N)] in family 3. All the patients presented with male infertility and PCD/likely PCD. All variants were present at very low levels in public databases, predicted to be deleterious in silico prediction tools, and were further confirmed deleterious by in vitro analyses. Ultrastructural analyses of the spermatozoa of the patients revealed the absence of the central pair complex in the sperm flagella. Immunostaining of the spermatozoa and respiratory cilia of the patients validated the pathogenicity of the SPEF2 variants. All patients carrying SPEF2 variants underwent one ICSI cycle and delivered healthy infants.

CONCLUSION: Our study reported four novel pathogenic variants of SPEF2 in three male patients with infertility and PCD/PCD-like phenotypes, which not only extend the spectrum of SPEF2 mutations but also provide information for genetic counseling and treatment of such conditions.

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