Telomere Length and Telomerase Activity in Immature Oocytes and Cumulus Cells of Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Reprod Sci. 2020 Jun;27(6):1293-1303. doi: 10.1007/s43032-019-00120-6. Epub 2020 Jan 6.


Metaphase II oocytes (MII) from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) frequently have impaired oocyte competence. Since telomere maintenance is important for folliculogenesis, oocyte maturation, and early embryonic development, we sought to verify the implications of PCOS on telomere length and telomerase activity in immature oocytes and cumulus cells. 43 PCOS and 67 control women were included, and anthropometric, biochemical, and hormonal characteristics were evaluated. The telomere length in germinal vesicle stage (GV) and in metaphase I (MI) oocytes, as well as in the cumulus cells of immature (CCI) and mature oocytes (CCM), and in leukocytes was measured by qPCR. The telomerase activity in reproductive cells was evaluated by the TRAPeze® XL Kit. The body mass index (p = 0.001), LH (p = 0.015), estradiol (p = 0.004), insulin (p = 0.002), testosterone (p < 0.0001), androstenedione (p = 0.001), free androgen index (p < 0.0001), and c-reactive protein (p = 0.003) were greater, while the FSH (p = 0.0002) was lower in the PCOS group. The telomere length in the CCI (p = 0.649) and CCM (p = 0.378) did not differ between the PCOS and the control groups. On the other hand, telomerase activity in the CCI (p = 0.003) and CCM (p = 0.022) was higher in the PCOS group. In the leukocyte's cells, the telomere length was reduced in the PCOS group (p = 0.025). In the GV and MI oocytes, no differences were observed in telomere length and telomerase activity between the groups. We showed that telomere length is not altered in reproductive cells from PCOS. However, higher telomerase activity in the CCI and CCM may be required for telomere length maintenance.

Keywords: Cumulus cells; Oocytes; Polycystic ovarian syndrome; Telomerase activity; Telomere length.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cumulus Cells / metabolism*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Oocytes / metabolism*
  • Oogenesis / physiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Insulin
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Estradiol
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Telomerase