REPRODUCTIVE SCIENCES, vol.29, no.8, pp.2208-2222, 2022 (SCI-Expanded)
In humans and most animals, maternal inheritance of mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is considered as an universal assumption. Recently, several lines of evidence suggest that different species seem to employ distinct mechanisms to prevent the inheritance of paternal mtDNA. There are few studies in the literature on the molecular basis of sperm mtDNA elimination in mammals and paternal mtDNA transmission in humans. Endonuclease G (ENDOG) is a mitochondrial nuclease encoded by nuclear ENDOG gene. The critical importance of ENDOG gene on paternal mitochondrial elimination (PME) has been previously demonstrated in model organisms such as C.elegans and D. melanogaster. However, its mechanism in human is still unclear. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate whether nuclear ENDOG gene copy number could be a potential marker of paternal mtDNA transmission or not. Male factor infertility patients diagnosed with different infertility subgroups such as azoospermia, oligoteratozoospermia, astheno-teratozoospermia were included in this study: 13 infertile men and 25 healthy men as control group. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis and dual-color Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) method were used to compare the groups. FISH method was applied to verify qPCR results and two signals were observed in nearly all patients. ENDOG gene copy number data were evaluated by comparing them with entire human mtDNA next-generation sequencing (NGS) analysis results obtained through bioinformatics and proteomics tools. Mitochondrial whole genome sequencing (WGS) data allowed determination of novel and reported variations such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), multiple nucleotide polymorphism (MNP), insertion/deletion (INDEL). Missense variants causing amino acid substitution were filtered out from patients' mtDNA WGS data. Relative copy number of target ENDOG gene in male infertility patients [0.49 (0.31 - 0.77)] was lower than healthy controls [1.00 (0.66 - 1.51)], and statistical results showed significant differences between the groups (p < 0.01). A total of 38 missense variants were detected in the genes encoding the proteins involved in the respiratory chain complex. Moreover, we detected paternal mtDNA transmissions in the children of these patients who applied to assisted reproductive techniques. In conclusion, this study reveals that ENDOG gene may be an important factor for the PME mechanism in humans. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study in humans about this topic and assessment of ENDOG gene sequencing and gene expression studies in a larger sample size including patients with male factor infertility would be our future project.