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Impact of gene polymorphisms of gonadotropins and their receptors on human reproductive success

Authors: Livio Casarini, Daniele Santi and Marco Marino

Gonadotropins and their receptors’ genes carry several single-nucleotide polymorphisms resulting in endocrine genotypes modulating reproductive parameters, diseases, and lifespan leading to important implications for reproductive success and potential relevance during human evolution. Here we illustrate common genotypes of the gonadotropins and gonadotropin receptors’ genes and their clinical implications in phenotypes relevant for reproduction such as ovarian cycle length, age of menopause, testosterone levels, polycystic ovary syndrome, and cancer. We then discuss their possible role in human reproduction and adaptation to the environment. Gonadotropins and their receptors’ variants are differently distributed among human populations. Some hints suggest that they may be the result of natural selection that occurred in ancient times, increasing the individual chance of successful mating, pregnancy, and effective post-natal parental cares. The gender-related differences in the regulation of the reproductive endocrine systems imply that many of these genotypes may lead to sex-dependent effects, increasing the chance of mating and reproductive success in one sex at the expenses of the other sex. Also, we suggest that sexual conflicts within the FSH and LH–choriogonadotropin receptor genes contributed to maintain genotypes linked to subfertility among humans. Because the distribution of polymorphic markers results in a defined geographical pattern due to human migrations rather than natural selection, these polymorphisms may have had only a weak impact on reproductive success. On the contrary, such genotypes could acquire relevant consequences in the modern, developed societies in which parenthood attempts often occur at a later age, during a short, suboptimal reproductive window, making clinical fertility treatments necessary.

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