Scientists from the RIKEN BioResource Center in Tsukuba, Japan, have discovered that a single mutation in the beta-catenin gene, which codes a protein known to be deeply involved in a number of developmental and homeostatic processes, can lead to infertility not through a disruption of the production of egg or sperm cells, but rather by leading to abnormalities in the morphology of the sexual organs, making natural reproduction impossible.

Beta-catenin is an essential protein in the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway, which has been shown in mice to be involved in the development and maintenance of most, if not all organs, throughout their lives. Normally, it is switched on at some points during development, but then is turned off when it is no longer appropriate.

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