Germ cell arrest associated with a SETX mutation in ataxia oculomotor apraxia type 2

SR Catford, MK O'Bryan, RI McLachlan, MB Delatycki, L Rombauts

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Ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2) is a rare autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cerebellar atrophy, peripheral neuropathy and oculomotor apraxia. It is caused by mutations in the SETX gene that encodes senataxin, a ubiquitously expressed protein that mediates processes, including transcription, transcription termination, DNA repair, RNA processing, DNA–RNA hybrid (R-loop) elimination and telomere stability. In mice, senataxin is essential for male germ cell development and fertility through its role in meiotic recombination and sex chromosome inactivation. AOA2 is associated with hypogonadism in women, but there are no reports of hypogonadism or infertility in men. We describe the first case of human male infertility caused by germ cell arrest in a man with AOA2. Our patient has a homozygous mutation in the SETX gene (NC_000009.11:g.135158775dup), which results in a frameshift and premature protein termination (NM_015046.6:c.6422dup, p.[Ser2142Glufs*23]). In accordance with the murine phenotype, testis histology revealed disrupted seminiferous tubules with spermatogonia and primary spermatocytes, but absent spermatids. Collectively, these data support an essential role of senataxin in human spermatogenesis, and provide a compelling case that men with AOA2 should be counselled at diagnosis about the possibility of infertility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-965
Number of pages5
JournalReproductive BioMedicine Online
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Ataxia oculomotor apraxia type 2
  • Germ cell arrest
  • Male infertility
  • Non-obstructive azoospermia
  • Senataxin
  • SETX

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