Hyperandrogenism sensitizes leukocytes to hyperglycemia to promote oxidative stress in lean reproductive-age women

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Aug;97(8):2836-43. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-1259. Epub 2012 May 8.


Context: Hyperandrogenism and oxidative stress are related in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but it is unknown whether hyperandrogenemia can activate oxidative stress.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of oral androgen administration on fasting and glucose-stimulated leukocytic reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase p47(phox) subunit gene expression, and plasma thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) in lean healthy reproductive-age women.

Participants, design, and setting: Sixteen lean healthy ovulatory reproductive-age women were treated with 130 mg dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or placebo (n = 8 each) for 5 d in this randomized, controlled, double-blind study that was performed at an an academic medical center.

Main outcome measures: Leukocytic ROS generation, p47(phox) gene expression, and plasma TBARS were quantified in the fasting state and 2 h after glucose ingestion, before and after treatment.

Results: Before treatment, subjects receiving DHEA or placebo exhibited no differences in androgens or any prooxidant markers while fasting and after glucose ingestion. Compared with placebo, DHEA administration raised levels of testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA-sulfate, increased the percent change in glucose-challenged p47(phox) RNA content, and increased the percent change in fasting and glucose-challenged ROS generation from mononuclear cells and polymorphonuclear cells, p47(phox) protein content, and plasma TBARS.

Conclusion: Elevation of circulating androgens comparable to what is present in PCOS increases leukocytic ROS generation, p47(phox) gene expression, and plasma TBARS to promote oxidative stress in lean healthy reproductive-age women. Thus, hyperandrogenemia activates and sensitizes leukocytes to glucose in this population.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Composition
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / metabolism*
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • NADPH Oxidases / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Testosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • NADPH Oxidases
  • neutrophil cytosolic factor 1