The role of low-grade inflammation in the polycystic ovary syndrome

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Mar 15;335(1):30-41. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2010.08.002. Epub 2010 Aug 11.


PCOS is not only the most frequent cause of oligomenorrhea in young women, but also a metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, and obesity, especially the visceral phenotype. PCOS represents a broad spectrum of endocrine and metabolic alterations which change with age and with increasing adiposity. In fact, during adolescence and youth the predominant clinical manifestations of PCOS are menstrual abnormalities, hirsutism and acne, whereas in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal periods metabolic disorders and an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases prevail. The pathogenetic links between PCOS and metabolic or cardiovascular complications are still debated. However, recent evidence has been focused on a condition of low-grade chronic inflammation as a potential cause of the long-term consequence of the syndrome. In this review we describe the state of low-grade inflammation observed in PCOS. In addition, we hypothesize the potential mechanisms responsible for the generation of this inflammatory state and the role played by low-grade inflammation in linking hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance with the metabolic and cardiovascular long-term complications of the syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / immunology
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hyperandrogenism / genetics
  • Hyperandrogenism / metabolism
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / immunology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • Adipokines
  • Androgens
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypoglycemic Agents