Decreased fecundity and sperm DNA methylation patterns

Sperm DNA methylation profiles at five distinct genomic regions are associated with decreased fecundity in a well-characterized patient population.

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Timothy G. Jenkins, Ph.D., Kenneth I. Aston, Ph.D., Tyson D. Meyer, B.S., James M. Hotaling, M.D., M.S., Monis B. Shamsi, Ph.D., Erica B. Johnstone, M.D., Kyley J. Cox, M.P.H., Joseph B. Stanford, M.D., M.S.P.H., Christina A. Porucznik, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Douglas T. Carrell, Ph.D.

Volume 105, Issue 1, Pages 51-57



To evaluate the relationship between epigenetic patterns in sperm and fecundity.


Prospective study.


Academic andrology and in vitro fertilization laboratory.


27 semen samples from couples who conceived within 2 months of attempting a pregnancy and 29 semen samples from couples unable to achieve a pregnancy within 12 months.



Main Outcome Measure(s):

Genomewide assessment of differential sperm DNA methylation and standard semen analysis.


We analyzed DNA methylation alterations associated with fecundity in 124 semen samples, and identified regions of interest in 27 semen samples from couples who conceived within 2 months of attempting a pregnancy and a total of 29 semen samples from couples who were unable to achieve a pregnancy within 12 months. No differences in sperm count, sperm morphology, or semen volume were observed between the patients achieving a pregnancy within 2 months of study time and those not obtaining a pregnancy within 12 months. However, using data from the human methylation 450k array analysis we did identify two genomic regions with statistically significantly decreased (false discovery rate <0.01) methylation and three genomic regions with statistically significantly increased methylation in the failure-to-conceive group. The only two sites where decreased methylation was associated with reduced fecundity are at closely related genes known to be expressed in sperm, HSPA1L and HSPA1B. Conclusion(s):

Our data suggest that there are genomic loci where DNA methylation alterations are associated with decreased fecundity. We have thus identified candidate loci for future study to verify these results and investigate the causative or contributory relationship between altered sperm methylation and decreased fecundity.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. The journal publishes juried original scientific articles in clinical and laboratory research relevant to reproductive endocrinology, urology, andrology, physiology, immunology, genetics, contraception, and menopause. Fertility and Sterility® encourages and supports meaningful basic and clinical research, and facilitates and promotes excellence in professional education, in the field of reproductive medicine.