Premature ovarian failure (POF) is a defect of ovarian development and is characterized by primary or secondary amenorrhea, with elevated levels of serum gonadotropins, or by early menopause. The disorder has been attributed to various causes, including rearrangements of a large 'critical region' in the long arm of the X chromosome. Here we report identification, in a family with POF, of a gene that is disrupted by a breakpoint. The gene is the human homologue of the Drosophila melanogaster diaphanous gene; mutated alleles of this gene affect spermatogenesis or oogenesis and lead to sterility. The protein (DIA) encoded by the human gene (DIA) is the first human member of the growing FH1/FH2 protein family. Members of this protein family affect cytokinesis and other actin-mediated morphogenetic processes that are required in early steps of development. We propose that the human DIA gene is one of the genes responsible for POF and that it affects the cell divisions that lead to ovarian follicle formation.
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