Treatment with human, recombinant FSH improves sperm DNA fragmentation in idiopathic infertile men depending on the FSH receptor polymorphism p.N680S: a pharmacogenetic study

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Abstract

STUDY QUESTION

Does the sperm DNA fragmentation index (DFI) improve depending on the FSH receptor (FSHR) genotype as assessed by the nonsynonymous polymorphisms rs6166 (p.N680S) after 3 months of recombinant FSH treatment in men with idiopathic infertility?

SUMMARY ANSWER

FSH treatment significantly improves sperm DFI only in idiopathic infertile men with the p.N680S homozygous N FSHR.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY

FSH, fundamental for spermatogenesis, is empirically used to treat male idiopathic infertility and several studies suggest that DFI could be a candidate predictor of response to FSH treatment, in terms of probability to conceive. Furthermore, it is known that the FSHR single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs6166 (p.N680S) influences ovarian response in women and testicular volume in men.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE AND DURATION

A multicenter, longitudinal, prospective, open-label, two-arm clinical trial was performed. Subjects enrolled were idiopathic infertile men who received 150 IU recombinant human FSH s.c. every other day for 12 weeks and were followed-up for a further 12 weeks after FSH withdrawal. Patients were evaluated at baseline, at the end of treatment and at the end of follow-up.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS

Eighty-nine men with idiopathic infertility carrier of the FSHR p.N680S homozygous N or S genotype, FSH ≤ 8 IU/l and DFI >15%, were enrolled. A total of 66 patients had DFI analysis completed on at least two visits. DFI was evaluated in one laboratory by TUNEL/PI (propidium iodide) assay coupled to flow cytometry, resolving two different fractions of sperm, namely the ‘brighter’ and ‘dimmer’ sperm DFI fractions.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE

Thirty-eight men (57.6%) were carriers of the p.N680S homozygous N and 28 (42.4%) of the homozygous S FSHR. Sperm concentration/number was highly heterogeneous and both groups included men ranging from severe oligozoospermia to normozoospermia. Total DFI was significantly lower at the end of the study in homozygous carriers of the p.N680S N versus p.N680S S allele (P = 0.008). Total DFI decreased significantly from baseline to the end of the study (P = 0.021) only in carriers of the p.N680S homozygous N polymorphism, and this decrease involved the sperm population containing vital sperm (i.e. brighter sperm) (P = 0.008). The dimmer sperm DFI fraction, including only nonvital sperm, was significantly larger in p.N680S S homozygous patients than in homozygous N men (P = 0.018). Total DFI was inversely related to total sperm number (P = 0.020) and progressive sperm motility (P = 0.014). When patients were further stratified according to sperm concentration (normoozospermic versus oligozoospermic) or -211G>T polymorphism in the FSHB gene (rs10835638) (homozygous G versus others), the significant improvement of sperm DFI in FSHR p.N680S homozygous N men was independent of sperm concentration and associated with the homozygous FSHB -211G>T homozygous G genotype.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION

The statistical power of the study is 86.9% with alpha error 0.05. This is the first pharmacogenetic study suggesting that FSH treatment induces a significant improvement of total DFI in men carriers of the p.N680S homozygous N FSHR; however, the results need to be confirmed in larger studies using a personalized FSH dosage and treatment duration.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS

The evaluation of sperm DFI as a surrogate marker of sperm quality, and of the FSHR SNP rs6166 (p.N680S), might be useful to predict the response to FSH treatment in men with idiopathic infertility.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)

The study was supported by an unrestricted grant to M.S. and H.M.B. from Merck Serono that provided the drug used in the study. MS received additional grants from Merck Serono and IBSA as well as honoraria from Merck Serono. The remaining authors declare that no conflicts of interest are present.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER

EudraCT number 2010-020240-35.

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