A systematic review and standardized clinical validity assessment of male infertility genes

Manon S. Oud, Ludmila Volozonoka, Roos M. Smits, Lisenka E.L.M. Vissers, Liliana Ramos, Joris A. Veltman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


STUDY QUESTION: Which genes are confidently linked to human monogenic male infertility? SUMMARY ANSWER: Our systematic literature search and clinical validity assessment reveals that a total of 78 genes are currently confidently linked to 92 human male infertility phenotypes. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The discovery of novel male infertility genes is rapidly accelerating with the availability of next-generating sequencing methods, but the quality of evidence for gene-disease relationships varies greatly. In order to improve genetic research, diagnostics and counseling, there is a need for an evidence-based overview of the currently known genes. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: We performed a systematic literature search and evidence assessment for all publications in Pubmed until December 2018 covering genetic causes of male infertility and/or defective male genitourinary development. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Two independent reviewers conducted the literature search and included papers on the monogenic causes of human male infertility and excluded papers on genetic association or risk factors, karyotype anomalies and/or copy number variations affecting multiple genes. Next, the quality and the extent of all evidence supporting selected genes was weighed by a standardized scoring method and used to determine the clinical validity of each gene-disease relationship as expressed by the following six categories: no evidence, limited, moderate, strong, definitive or unable to classify. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: From a total of 23 526 records, we included 1337 publications about monogenic causes of male infertility leading to a list of 521 gene-disease relationships. The clinical validity of these gene-disease relationships varied widely and ranged from definitive (n = 38) to strong (n = 22), moderate (n = 32), limited (n = 93) or no evidence (n = 160). A total of 176 gene-disease relationships could not be classified because our scoring method was not suitable. LARGE SCALE DATA: Not applicable. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Our literature search was limited to Pubmed. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The comprehensive overview will aid researchers and clinicians in the field to establish gene lists for diagnostic screening using validated gene-disease criteria and help to identify gaps in our knowledge of male infertility. For future studies, the authors discuss the relevant and important international guidelines regarding research related to gene discovery and provide specific recommendations for the field of male infertility. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This work was supported by a VICI grant from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (918-15-667 to J.A.V.), the Royal Society, and Wolfson Foundation (WM160091 to J.A.V.) as well as an investigator award in science from the Wellcome Trust (209451 to J.A.V.).None.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)932-941
Number of pages10
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • clinical validity
  • gene panel
  • genetics
  • gene–disease relation
  • male infertility
  • next-generation sequencing
  • spermatogenic failure
  • systematic review

Field of Science*

  • 3.2 Clinical medicine

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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