Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several common loci contributing to non-obstructive azoospermia (NOA). However, a substantial fraction of NOA heritability remains undefined, especially those low-frequency [defined here as having a minor allele frequency (MAF) between 0.5 and 5%] and rare (MAF below 0.5%) variants. Here, we performed a 3-stage exome-wide association study in Han Chinese men to evaluate the role of low-frequency or rare germline variants in NOA development. The discovery stage included 962 NOA cases and 1348 healthy male controls genotyped by exome chips and was followed by a 2-stage replication with an additional 2168 cases and 5248 controls. We identified three low-frequency variants located at 6p22.2 (rs2298090 in HIST1H1E encoding p.Lys152Arg: OR = 0.30, P = 2.40 × 10-16) and 6p21.33 (rs200847762 in FKBPL encoding p.Pro137Leu: OR = 0.11, P = 3.77 × 10-16; rs11754464 in MSH5: OR = 1.78, P = 3.71 × 10-7) associated with NOA risk after Bonferroni correction. In summary, we report an instance of newly identified signals for NOA risk in genes previously undetected through GWAS on 6p22.2-6p21.33 in a Chinese population and highlight the role of low-frequency variants with a large effect in the process of spermatogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology