The ubiquitin-conjugating yeast enzyme RAD6 and its human homologs hHR6A and hHR6B are implicated in postreplication repair and damage-induced mutagenesis. The yeast protein is also required for sporulation and may modulate chromatin structure via histone ubiquitination. We report the phenotype of the first animal mutant in the ubiquitin pathway: inactivation of the hHR6B-homologous gene in mice causes male infertility. Derailment of spermatogenesis becomes overt during the postmeiotic condensation of chromatin in spermatids. These findings provide a parallel between yeast sporulation and mammalian spermatogenesis and strongly implicate hHR6-dependent ubiquitination in chromatin remodeling. Since heterozygous male mice and even knockout female mice are completely normal and fertile and thus able to transmit the defect, similar hHR6B mutations may cause male infertility in man.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Klaveren, J., de Wit, J., van Gurp, C. G., Koken, M., Vermey, M., van Roijen, J. H., … Roest, H. (1996). Inactivation of the HR6B ubiquitin-conjugating DNA repair enzyme in mice causes male sterility associated with chromatin modification. Cell, 86(5), 799–810. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80154-3