Higher circulating leukocytes in women with PCOS is reversed by aerobic exercise

Biochimie. 2016 May;124:27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2014.10.028. Epub 2014 Nov 12.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by insulin resistance, elevated circulating leukocytes, and hypothesized to have higher adipose tissue inflammation. Aerobic exercise reduces circulating leukocytes and improves insulin sensitivity in obese individuals, but the effect of exercise on inflammation in PCOS is not known. We investigated circulating leukocytes, insulin sensitivity by euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp, serum pro- and anti-inflammatory markers (hsCRP, TNF-α, total and high molecular weight adiponectin), and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) gene expression of proinflammatory markers in 8 PCOS women and 8 obese control females matched for BMI. Additionally, in a prospective study, the 8 women with PCOS underwent a 16-week aerobic exercise regimen with the same measures performed post-intervention. Compared to controls, white blood cell counts (WBC) were 30% higher (p = 0.04) and circulating total adiponectin levels were 150% lower (p = 0.03) in women with PCOS at baseline/pre-exercise conditions. SAT gene expression of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF, p < 0.01) and interleukin-6 (IL-6, p < 0.05) were also lower in women with PCOS. In response to 16 weeks of aerobic exercise, insulin sensitivity improved (p < 0.01) and WBC counts decreased (p = 0.02). The exercise-induced change in WBC and circulating neutrophils correlated inversely with changes in glucose disposal rate (r = -0.73, p = 0.03; and r = -0.82, p = 0.01, respectively). Aerobic exercise reduced serum leptin (p < 0.05) after 4 weeks, trended to reduce the ratio of leptin-to-high molecular weight adiponectin (p < 0.1) by the 8th week, and significantly increased serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S, p < 0.001) after 16 weeks. In conclusion, women with PCOS have higher circulating leukocytes compared to controls, which can be reversed by aerobic exercise and is associated with improvements in insulin sensitivity.

Keywords: Adipose; Inflammation; Insulin resistance; Obese; Polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / blood*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy*


  • Biomarkers
  • Inflammation Mediators