High frequency of DAZ1/DAZ2 gene deletions in patients with severe oligozoospermia.
Deletions of the DAZ gene family in distal Yq11 are always associated with deletions of the azoospermia factor c (AZFc) region, which we now estimate extends to 4.94 Mb. Because more Y gene families are located in this chromosomal region, and are expressed like the DAZ gene family only in the male germ line, the testicular pathology associated with complete AZFc deletions cannot predict the functional contribution of the DAZ gene family to human spermatogenesis. We therefore established a DAZ gene copy specific deletion analysis based on the DAZ-BAC sequences in GenBank. It includes the deletion analysis of eight DAZ-DNA PCR markers [six DAZ-single nucleotide varients (SNVs) and two DAZ-sequence tag sites (STS)] selected from the 5' to the 3'end of each DAZ gene and a deletion analysis of the gene copy specific EcoRV and TaqI restriction fragments identified in the internal repetitive DAZ gene regions (DYS1 locus). With these diagnostic tools, 63 DNA samples from men with idiopathic oligozoospermia and 107 DNA samples from men with proven fertility were analysed for the presence of the complete DAZ gene locus, encompassing the four DAZ gene copies. In five oligozoospermic patients, we found a DAZ-SNV/STS and DYS1/EcoRV and TaqI fragment deletion pattern indicative for deletion of the DAZ1 and DAZ2 gene copies; one of these deletions could be identified as a 'de-novo' deletion because it was absent in the DAZ locus of the patient's father. The same DAZ deletions were not found in any of the 107 fertile control samples. We therefore conclude that the deletion of the DAZ1/DAZ2 gene doublet in five out of our 63 oligozoospermic patients (8%) is responsible for the patients' reduced sperm numbers. It is most likely caused by intrachromosomal recombination events between two long repetitive sequence blocks (AZFc-Rep1) flanking the DAZ gene structures.