Adipose tissue dysfunction, adipokines, and low-grade chronic inflammation in polycystic ovary syndrome

Reproduction. 2015 May;149(5):R219-27. doi: 10.1530/REP-14-0435. Epub 2015 Jan 27.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a complex condition that affects women of reproductive age, is characterized by ovulatory dysfunction and androgen excess. Women with PCOS present higher prevalence of obesity, central adiposity, and dyslipidemia, and face increased risk of type 2 diabetes. PCOS is closely linked to functional derangements in adipose tissue. Adipocytes seem to be prone to hypertrophy when exposed to androgen excess, as experienced by women with PCOS, and both adipose tissue hypertrophy and hyperandrogenism are related to insulin resistance. Hypertrophic adipocytes are more susceptible to inflammation, apoptosis, fibrosis, and release of free fatty acids. Disturbed secretion of adipokines may also impact the pathophysiology of PCOS through their influence on metabolism and on sex steroid secretion. Chronic low-grade inflammation in PCOS is also related to hyperandrogenism and to the hypertrophy of adipocytes, causing compression phenomena in the stromal vessels, leading to adipose tissue hypoperfusion and altered secretion of cytokines. Lifestyle changes are the first-line intervention for reducing metabolic risks in PCOS and the addition of an insulin-sensitizing drug might be required. Nevertheless, there is not sufficient evidence in favor of any specific pharmacologic therapies to directly oppose inflammation. Further studies are warranted to identify an adipokine that could serve as an indirect marker of adipocyte production in PCOS, representing a reliable sign of metabolic alteration in this syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*


  • Adipokines