Phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase (PHGPx), the product of gpx-4, is the major selenoprotein in sperm and is considered essential for fertilization because of its multiple roles in spermatogenesis, such as hydroperoxide detoxification, formation of the mitochondrial capsule, and chromatin condensation. Genomic DNA sequences of 3.148 kilobases covering the whole gpx-4 and its flanking regions were amplified from 63 men using the polymerase chain reaction and were analyzed for polymorphisms by direct sequencing. A total of 23 variant sites were detected; 2 were present only in control men (proven fathers; n = 21) and 10 were common to fertile controls and infertile patients (n = 42). A further 11 variant sites were seen in five of the infertile men only. Four of the gpx-4 variants were considered irrelevant to GPx-4-related fertility problems because they occurred homozygously in controls. The majority of the remaining variant sites are also of questionable relevance because they are located in introns or, as third base exchanges, do not affect the protein sequence. However, one of the exon variations leads to an Ala93-Thr exchange that reduces activity in a porcine GPx-4 homologue. Two detected promoter variations were shown by reporter gene constructs to affect transcription in somatic cell lines. These results indicate that gpx-4 polymorphism cannot generally account for the correlation of PHGPx content of sperm and fertility-related parameters, but further examination of this gene as a potential cause of infertility in particular cases is warranted.
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