Olfactory phenotypic spectrum in idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism: pathophysiological and genetic implications

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jan;97(1):E136-44. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-2041. Epub 2011 Nov 9.


Context: The olfactory phenotype in patients with idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH) ranges from complete anosmia (Kallmann syndrome) to normosmia (normosmic IHH). However, the true prevalence of intermediary olfactory phenotypes (hyposmia) in IHH patients has not yet been assessed, and systematic correlations with anatomical and genetic abnormalities have not been reported.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate olfactory function in a large IHH cohort and correlate these findings with olfactory magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and underlying genetic etiology.

Design and setting: We conducted a cross-sectional case-control study at an academic referral center.

Patients: A total of 286 IHH patients (201 males and 85 females) and 2183 healthy historic controls (1011 males and 1172 females) were studied.

Main outcome measures: We measured olfactory function using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test; in 208 subjects, the genetic etiology of IHH was ascertained by DNA sequencing; in a minor subset [39 of 286 subjects (13%)], olfactory structures were determined by MRI.

Results: In the IHH cohort, 31.5% were anosmic, 33.6% were hyposmic, and 34.9% were normosmic. Most hyposmic (seven of 11) subjects with MRI data exhibited olfactory structure abnormalities. Of hyposmic subjects, 39.5% harbored mutations in genes involved in either GnRH neuronal migration or GnRH secretion.

Conclusions: IHH subjects display a broad spectrum of olfactory function, with a significant hyposmic phenotype in nearly one third of subjects. The hyposmic subjects harbor mutations in genes affecting GnRH neuronal migration and its secretion, suggesting a pathophysiological overlap between Kallmann syndrome and normosmic IHH. Accurate olfactory phenotyping in IHH subjects will inform the pathophysiology of this condition and guide genetic testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / complications*
  • Hypogonadism / genetics
  • Hypogonadism / physiopathology
  • Kallmann Syndrome / etiology
  • Kallmann Syndrome / genetics
  • Kallmann Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / classification*
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / genetics*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Young Adult