Vol 56, No 3 (2005)
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Published online: 2006-03-24

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Genetic aspects of plycystic ovary syndrome

Lucjusz Jakubowski
Endokrynol Pol 2005;56(3):285-291.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common heterogenous endocrine disorder associated with amenorrhoea (or oligomenorrhoea), hyperandrogenism, hirsutism, obesity, insulin resistance, and an approximately 7-fold increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (NIDDM – non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus). It is a leading cause of female infertility. The prevalence of PCOS among reproductive-age women has been estimated at 4%-12%. Familial aggregation of this syndrome is well established. There are also ethnic and racial variations in the prevalence of the syndrome and its symptoms. Multiple biochemical pathways have been implicated in the pathogenesis of PCOS. Several genes from these pathways have been tested include genes involved in steroid hormone biosynthesis and metabolism (StAR, CYP11, CYP17, CYP19 HSD17B1-3, HSD3B1-2), gonadotropin and gonadal hormones action (ACTR1, ACTR2A-B, FS, INHA, INHBA-B, INHC, SHBG, LHCGR, FSHR, MADH4, AR), obesity and energy regulation (MC4R, OB, OBR, POMC, UCP2-3), insulin secretion and action (IGF1, IGF1R, IGFBPI1-3, INS VNTR, IR, INSL, IRS1-2, PPARG) and many others.
Most women with PCOS, both obese and lean, have a degree of insulin resistance. The minisatellite of insulin gene (INS VNTR), especially class III alleles and III/III genotypes might not only determine the predisposition to anovulatory PCOS but also the concomitant risk for development of type 2 diabetes. The function of the insulin receptor (IR) is probably normal in woman with PCOS. However abnormal serine phosphorylation in the receptor may impair signal transduction accounting for a post-binding defect in insulin action. Serine phosphorylation is also involved in the postranslational regulation of 17,20-lyase activity (CYP17). There may be a common aetiology for both insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism. Polymorphic alleles of both IRS-1 and IRS-2 (insulin receptor substrate 1 – 2), alone or in combination, may have a functional impact on the insulin-resistant component of PCOS. There is no evidence to suggest that follistatin gene polymorphisms play a role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance in PCOS women.
PCOS appears to be associated with the absence of the four-repeat-units allele in a polymorphic region of penta-nucleotide (TTTTA)n repeats within CYP11A gene, which encodes cytochrome P450scc. It has been hypothesized that up-regulation of this enzyme could lead to increased androgen production. There is no evidence of any association of alleles of CYP19 gene (encoding cytochrome P450arom) with PCOS. Association exists between androgen receptor gene (AR) polymorphisms an androgens action in PCOS. Increased hirustism and decreased CAG repeat length within AR gene has been also demonstrated in women with normal testosterone levels.
Expression of estrogen receptor (ERs) as well as 5-α-reeducates (SRD5A1-2 genes) activity was analysed in granulosa (GC) and theca cells (TC). The results of this study demonstrate that there are significant alterations in the expression of ERα and ERβ in PCOS that may be related to abnormal follicular development. On the other hand elevated SRD5A activity in polycystic ovaries supported the hypothesis that 5-α-reduced androgens may play a role in the pathogenesis of the syndrome.
The genetic aetiology of PCOS remains unknown. There are a number of interlinking factors that affects expression of PCOS. Single cause of PCOS is unlikely. Other possible mechanisms in pathogenesis of PCOS are discussed.

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