Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked genetic disorder resulting from mutations in the dystrophin gene. The mdx/utrn -/- mouse, lacking in both dystrophin and its autosomal homologue utrophin, is commonly used to model the clinical symptoms of DMD. Interestingly, these mice are infertile but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain unclear. Using dystrophin deficient mdx mouse and utrophin haplodeficient mdx/utrn +/- mouse models, we demonstrate the contribution of Dp427 (full-length dystrophin) and utrophin to testis and epididymis development, as well as spermatogenesis. We show that Dp427 deficiency disturbed the balance between proliferation and apoptosis of germ cells during spermatogenesis, which was further disrupted with utrophin haplodeficiency, deciphering a compensatory role of utrophin for dystrophin in the male reproductive system. In the spermatozoa, we have found a compensatory response of utrophin to dystrophin deficiency - namely the upregulation and relocation of utrophin to the flagellar midpiece. This study demonstrates the contribution of Dp427 and utrophin in male fertility, suggesting a potential pathology in DMD patients.
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