Genome-wide ENU mutagenesis for the discovery of novel male fertility regulators

Duangporn Jamsai, Moira Kathleen O'Bryan

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18 Citations (Scopus)


The completion of genome sequencing projects has provided an extensive knowledge of the contents of the genomes of human, mouse, and many other organisms. Despite this, the function of most of the estimated 25,000 human genes remains largely unknown. Attention has now turned to elucidating gene function and identifying biological pathways that contribute to human diseases, including male infertility. Our understanding of the genetic regulation of male fertility has been accelerated through the use of genetically modified mouse models including knockout, knock-in, gene-trapped, and transgenic mice. Such reverse genetic approaches however, require some fore-knowledge of a gene s function and, as such, bias against the discovery of completely novel genes and biological pathways. To facilitate high throughput gene discovery, genome-wide mouse mutagenesis via the use of a potent chemical mutagen, N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU), has been developed over the past decade. This forward genetic, or phenotype-driven, approach relies upon observing a phenotype first, then subsequently defining the underlining genetic defect. Mutations are randomly introduced into the mouse genome via ENU exposure. Through a controlled breeding scheme, mutations causing a phenotype of interest (e.g., male infertility) are then identified by linkage analysis and candidate gene sequencing. This approach allows for the possibility of revealing comprehensive phenotype-genotype relationships for a range of genes and pathways i.e. in addition to null alleles, mice containing partial loss of function or gain-of-function mutations, can be recovered. Such point mutations are likely to be more reflective of those that occur within the human population. Many research groups have successfully used this approach to generate infertile mouse lines and some novel male fertility genes have been revealed. In this review, we focus on the utility of ENU mutagenesis for the discovery of novel male fertility regulators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246 - 259
Number of pages14
JournalSystems Biology in Reproductive Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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