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Research articles

Mitochondria-related male infertility.

Approximately 15% of human couples are affected by infertility, and about half of these cases of infertility can be attributed to men, through low sperm motility (asthenozoospermia) or/and numbers (oligospermia). Because mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) mutations are identified in patients with fertility problems, there is a possibility that mitochondrial respiration defects contribute to male infertility. To address this possibility, we used a transmitochondrial mouse model (mito-mice) carrying wild-type mtDNA and mutant mtDNA with a pathogenic 4,696-bp deletion (DeltamtDNA). Here we show that mitochondrial respiration defects caused by the accumulation of DeltamtDNA induced oligospermia and asthenozoospermia in the mito-mice. Most sperm from the infertile mito-mice had abnormalities in the middle piece and nucleus. Testes of the infertile mito-mice showed meiotic arrest at the zygotene stage as well as enhanced apoptosis. Thus, our in vivo study using mito-mice directly demonstrates that normal mitochondrial respiration is required for mammalian spermatogenesis, and its defects resulting from accumulated mutant mtDNAs cause male infertility.