Gut Microbiota and the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Influence of Sex, Sex Hormones, and Obesity

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Jul 1;103(7):2552-2562. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-02799.


Context: Gut microbiota play a major role in health and disease by influencing physiology, metabolism, nutrition, and immune function.

Objective: To evaluate the composition of gut microbiota in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), focusing on the influence of sex, sex hormones and obesity on the associations found.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Academic hospital.

Participants: We recruited 15 women with PCOS, 16 nonhyperandrogenic control women, and 15 control men. Participants were classified as nonobese (<30 kg/m2) or obese (≥30 kg/m2) according to their body mass index.

Interventions: Standardization of diet for 3 consecutive days (at least 300 g of carbohydrates per day) followed by fecal sampling and a standard 75-g oral glucose tolerance test.

Main outcome measures: Analysis of bacterial abundance and composition of gut microbiota by massive sequencing of 16S ribosomal DNA amplicons in a MiSeq platform (Illumina).

Results: α Bacterial diversity was reduced in women compared with men, and β diversity was reduced particularly in obese patients with PCOS. Women with PCOS presented with specific abnormalities in gut microbiota consisting of an increased abundance of the Catenibacterium and Kandleria genera. When all participants as a whole were considered, indexes of bacterial diversity and the abundance of several bacterial genera correlated positively with serum androgen concentrations and negatively with estradiol levels.

Conclusions: The diversity and composition of the gut microbiota of young adults are influenced by the combined effects of sex, sex hormone concentrations, and obesity, presenting with specific abnormalities in women with PCOS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androgens / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / methods
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / microbiology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Sex Factors*
  • Young Adult


  • Androgens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Estradiol