The azoospermia factor (AZF) locus in Yq11 is now functionally subdivided in three distinct spermatogenesis loci: AZFa, AZFb and AZFc. After knowledge of the complete genomic Y sequence in Yq11, 14 Y genes encoding putatively functional proteins and expressed in human testis are found to be located in one of the three AZF intervals. Therefore, a major question for each infertility clinic performing molecular screening for AZF deletions has now raised concerning the functional contribution of the encoded AZF proteins to human spermatogenesis. Additionally, it has been shown that distinct chromatin regions in Yq11 overlapping with the genomic AZFb and AZFc intervals are probably involved in the pre-meiotic X and Y chromosome pairing process. An old hypothesis on the germ line function of AZF becomes therefore revitalized. It proposed a specific chromatin folding code in Yq11, which controls the condensation cycle of the Y chromosome in the male germ line. Thus, with the exception of AZF proteins functionally expressed during the pre-meiotic differentiation and proliferation of spermatogonia, the need for AZF proteins functionally expressed at meiosis or during the post-meiotic spermatid maturation process is difficult to assess before the identification of specific mutations in the corresponding AZF gene causing male infertility.
- AZF locus and X-Y meiotic chromosome pairing
- AZF proteins in germ cells
- AZFa AZFb
- AZFc genes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Reproductive Medicine