Absence of sperm RNA elements correlates with idiopathic male infertility

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Science Translational Medicine  08 Jul 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 295, pp. 295re6
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab1287


Semen parameters are typically used to diagnose male infertility and specify clinical interventions. In idiopathic infertile couples, an unknown male factor could be the cause of infertility even when the semen parameters are normal. Next-generation sequencing of spermatozoal RNAs can provide an objective measure of the paternal contribution and may help guide the care of these couples. We assessed spermatozoal RNAs from 96 couples presenting with idiopathic infertility and identified the final reproductive outcome and sperm RNA elements (SREs) reflective of fecundity status. The absence of required SREs reduced the probability of achieving live birth by timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination from 73 to 27%. However, the absence of these same SREs does not appear to be critical when using assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection. About 30% of the idiopathic infertile couples presented an incomplete set of required SREs, suggesting a male component as the cause of their infertility. Conversely, analysis of couples that failed to achieve a live birth despite presenting with a complete set of SREs suggested that a female factor may have been involved, and this was confirmed by their diagnosis. The data in this study suggest that SRE analysis has the potential to predict the individual success rate of different fertility treatments and reduce the time to achieve live birth.

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