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Last man standing: just two Y-chromosome genes needed for reproduction

25 November 2013

By Dr Naqash Raja

Appeared in BioNews 732

Male mice are able to reproduce healthy offspring with only two Y-chromosome genes, researchers at the University of Hawaii have discovered.

'Does this mean that the Y chromosome (or most of it) is no longer needed? Yes, given our current technological advances in assisted reproductive technologies', said Professor Monika Ward at the Institute for Biogenesis Research.

Ward and her colleagues produced transgenic mice that only had the Sry gene, critical in testes development, and the Eif2s3y gene, which is involved in the initial stages of sperm production, on their Y chromosomes.

These infertile mice then underwent an advanced form of IVF, called spermatid injection, where immature sperm cells are injected directly into the egg. They fathered pups that went on to have a normal lifespan and were capable of producing a second generation on their own without further assistance.

Professor Ward highlighted the importance of the Y chromosome for normal, unassisted fertilisation and other aspects of male reproduction. 'Most of the mouse Y-chromosome genes are necessary for normal fertilisation', she said. 'However, when it comes to assisted reproduction, our mouse study proves that the Y-chromosome contribution can be brought to a bare minimum'.

Speaking to BBC News, Dr Chris Tyler-Smith from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who was not involved in the research, said: 'This is a great step forward in understanding basic biology'.

Although their findings are not directly translatable to human male infertility cases, the research group argue that the advances in assisted reproduction methods could one day help infertile men with a damaged Y chromosome.

'It's quite an amazing technique to be able to get live, healthy offspring from round spermatid, which are way early in the final process of sperm maturation', said Polly Campbell, an evolutionary biologist at Oklahoma State University who was not involved in the research, speaking to The Scientist. 'That is probably the single most striking thing about this paper'.

EurekAlert! (press release) | 21 November 2013
The Scientist | 21 November 2013
Fox News | 22 November 2013
New Scientist | 21 November 2013
Science | 21 November 2013
BBC News | 22 November 2013


07 March 2016 - by Dr Katie Howe 
A new DNA-sequencing method has been developed, which has been used to determine the sequence of the gorilla Y chromosome...
26 May 2015 - by Natalie Moska 
Last week I attended a Pint of Science session entitled 'Sugar and Sperm' held at a floating pub on Albert Embankment in London - part of a worldwide festival hosting more than 600 evenings of science in 50 cities and eight countries as far afield as Australia and the USA...
15 December 2014 - by Arit Udoh 
Smoking can accelerate the loss of the Y chromosome in blood cells, a study claims...
29 September 2014 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
The rise of the single mother may seem a rather modern phenomenon. But even before the first humans walked out of Africa 70,000 years ago, mothers have consistently outnumbered fathers, DNA analysis suggests...
13 January 2014 - by Matthew Thomas 
The human Y chromosome may have some use, after all. Experts previously thought that the chromosome containing 'male' genes was shrinking to the point of extinction...

29 July 2013 - by Clara Salice 
The 'female' X chromosome has been shown to contain several genes that may be involved in sperm production...
27 February 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Men may not be on the brink of extinction after all, according to a study on the evolution of the human Y chromosome. Previous research has suggested that the Y sex chromosome, carried only by men, is decaying genetically at such a rate that men would become extinct in five million years' time...
13 February 2012 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
A sixth of men have a genetic variant which could increase their risk of heart disease by up to 56 percent, according to a recent study...
18 January 2010 - by Rose Palmer 
Scientists have found that the Y chromosome is evolving more quickly than any other part of the human genetic code. In the first comparison of human and chimpanzee Y chromosomes, a team from the Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts, US, found that the two differ dramatically in structure and gene content. The finding was published in the journal Nature....

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