N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis and male fertility research

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Male infertility affects about 1 in 25 men in the western world. Conversely, there is an urgent requirement for additional male-based contraceptives, yet progress in both areas has been severely hampered by a lack of knowledge of the biochemistry and physiology of male reproductive function. It is only through a thorough knowledge of these processes that we can hope to insightfully regulate male reproductive function. Without doubt, mouse models will form an important foundation in any future process. In recent years, the chemical mutagen N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) has been used widely to identify genes essential for a range of biological systems including male infertility. These studies have shown random mutagenesis is an attractive means of identifying key genes for male fertility. This technique has distinct, but complementary advantages compared to knockout technologies. Specifically, it allows the removal of researcher bias whereby only pre-conceived genes are tested for function; it produces mice with a guaranteed phenotype and allows for the production of allelic series of mice to dissect all aspects of gene function. ENU mouse mutagenesis programs will enable advances in the diagnosis and treatment of human male infertility and ultimately aid in the development of novel male-based contraceptives.

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