Adrenal and ovarian steroid hormone responses to gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist treatment in polycystic ovary syndrome

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1991 Sep;165(3):535-45. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(91)90280-5.


It has been postulated that in polycystic ovary syndrome ovarian steroids can influence adrenal steroidogenesis. To test this hypothesis, basal and dexamethasone-suppressed-corticotropin-stimulated steroid hormone responses were compared among three groups of women before, during, and after gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist treatment for 3 months. The groups were characterized as follows: (1) women with polycystic ovary syndrome with high dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels (greater than 400 micrograms/dl), (2) women with polycystic ovary syndrome with normal dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels (less than 300 micrograms/dl), and (3) normal ovulatory women. In response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist, basal serum luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estradiol, estrone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, androstenedione, and testosterone in all three groups were suppressed to similar levels. Basal serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels in the group with high levels declined, but they did not reach the normal, unaltered concentrations in the other two groups. Two subjects with polycystic ovary syndrome in this group with high levels, who showed the greatest declines in basal serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels (34%, 40%), also had evidence of 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency before treatment, which was resolved by the end of treatment. In both groups with polycystic ovary syndrome, the increase in maximum incremental rise of dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels in response to a pharmacologic dose of corticotropin from a dexamethasone-suppressed baseline (adrenal androgen capacity) remained unaltered during gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist administration. We conclude that ovarian steroids may promote excessive adrenal androgen secretion in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, may induce 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency as a mechanism for adrenal involvement in some women with polycystic ovary syndrome, and do not influence adrenal androgen capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / deficiency
  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Glands / drug effects*
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Androgens / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Leuprolide
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Progestins / blood


  • Androgens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Progestins
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • 3-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Leuprolide
  • Hydrocortisone