In a study published online in Nature, researchers report the identification of a gene that has a key role in the development of sperm. Yi Zhang and colleagues propose that Jhdm2a - a histone demethylase gene - might even be a new candidate gene involved in some infertility syndromes.
The authors examine the function of JHDM2A in mice using a number of techniques. By analysing the levels of the JHDM2A protein, they find that it is highly expressed in the testis, with levels increasing during spermatogenesis. To explore further its role during the late stages of male germ-cell development, Zhang and colleagues also studied the effects of disrupting the Jhdm2a gene. Mutant mice have smaller testes, a lower sperm count and are infertile. Of the few mature sperm recovered from mutant mice, all had abnormally shaped heads are most were immotile.
These findings highlight the critical role of JHDM2A in the late stages of sperm production and maturation. Further work is needed to determine whether the human equivalent of this gene is involved in infertility.
Yi Zhang (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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