Adrenocortical steroid response to ACTH in different phenotypes of non-obese polycystic ovary syndrome

J Ovarian Res. 2012 Dec 7;5(1):42. doi: 10.1186/1757-2215-5-42.


Background: Adrenal androgen excess is frequently observed in PCOS. The aim of the study was to determine whether adrenal gland function varies among PCOS phenotypes, women with hyperandrogenism (H) only and healthy women.

Methods: The study included 119 non-obese patients with PCOS (age: 22.2 ± 4.1y, BMI:22.5 ± 3.1 kg/m2), 24 women with H only and 39 age and BMI- matched controls. Among women with PCOS, 50 had H, oligo-anovulation (O), and polycystic ovaries (P) (PHO), 32 had O and H (OH), 23 had P and H (PH), and 14 had P and O (PO). Total testosterone (T), SHBG and DHEAS levels at basal and serum 17-hydroxprogesterone (17-OHP), androstenedione (A4), DHEA and cortisol levels after ACTH stimulation were measured.

Results: T, FAI and DHEAS, and basal and AUC values for 17-OHP and A4 were significantly and similarly higher in PCOS and H groups than controls (p < 0.05 for all) whereas three groups did not differ for basal or AUC values of DHEA and cortisol. Three hyperandrogenic subphenotypes (PHO, OH, and PH) compared to non-hyperandrogenic subphenotype (PO) had significantly and similarly higher T, FAI, DHEAS and AUC values for 17-OHP, A4 and DHEA (p < 0.05). All subphenotypes had similar basal and AUC values for cortisol.

Conclusion: PCOS patients and women with H only have similar and higher basal and stimulated adrenal androgen levels than controls. All three hyperandrogenic subphenotypes of PCOS exhibit similar and higher basal and stimulated adrenal androgen secretion patterns compared to non-hyperandrogenic subphenotype.