Choline dehydrogenase (CHDH) catalyzes the conversion of choline to betaine, an important methyl donor and organic osmolyte. We have previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the human CHDH gene that, when present, seem to alter the activity of the CHDH enzyme. These SNPs occur frequently in humans. We created a Chdh(-/-) mouse to determine the functional effects of mutations that result in decreased CHDH activity. Chdh deletion did not affect fetal viability or alter growth or survival of these mice. Only one of eleven Chdh(-/-) males was able to reproduce. Loss of CHDH activity resulted in decreased testicular betaine and increased choline and PCho concentrations. Chdh(+/+) and Chdh(-/-) mice produced comparable amounts of sperm; the impaired fertility was due to diminished sperm motility in the Chdh(-/-) males. Transmission electron microscopy revealed abnormal mitochondrial morphology in Chdh(-/-) sperm. ATP content, total mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity and inner mitochondrial membrane polarization were all significantly reduced in sperm from Chdh(-/-) animals. Mitochondrial changes were also detected in liver, kidney, heart, and testis tissues. We suggest that men who have SNPs in CHDH that decrease the activity of the CHDH enzyme could have decreased sperm motility and fertility.
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