CFTR mutations and polymorphisms in male infertility


  • This is a review for the EEA International Symposium on ‘Genetics of male infertility: from research to clinic’, Florence, Italy.

Harry Cuppens, Department for Human Genetics, KULeuven, Herestraat 49, O&N6, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.
Tel.: +32 16 34 60 77; Fax: +32 16 34 59 97


Apart from cystic fibrosis, mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene are also involved in congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD). A mutation is identified in about 80% of the CFTR genes derived from CBAVD patients; the genetic defect in the remainder is yet unknown. In contrast to CF patients, when CFTR is involved, at least one of the mutant CFTR genes of CBAVD patients harbors a mild mutation. A polyvariant mutant CFTR gene is the most frequent CBAVD causing mutant CFTR gene. Here, combinations of particular alleles at several polymorphic loci yield insufficient functional CFTR. The fact that most CBAVD patients, that carry mutations on both CFTR genes, have no lung disease is most probably explained by tissue specific alternative splicing, which is increased in vas deferens compared to bronchial tissue. It has also been reported that CBAVD may be involved in other forms of infertility than CBAVD, however this has not always been confirmed in other studies. Because of techniques such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, CBAVD patients are now able to father children, however such couples have an increased risk of having a child with cystic fibrosis, and therefore genetic testing and counselling should be provided.