Intersection of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the Gut Microbiome

J Endocr Soc. 2020 Nov 16;5(2):bvaa177. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvaa177. eCollection 2021 Feb 1.


The etiology of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) remains unclear, although studies indicate that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the syndrome. In 2012, Tremellen and Pearce proposed the idea that dysbiosis of the intestinal (gut) microbiome is a causative factor of metabolic and reproductive manifestations of PCOS. In the past 5 years, studies in both humans and rodent models have demonstrated that changes in the taxonomic composition of gut bacteria are associated with PCOS. Studies have also clearly shown that these changes in gut microbiota are associated with PCOS as opposed to obesity, since these changes are observed in women with PCOS that are both of a normal weight or obese, as well as in adolescent girls with PCOS and obesity compared with body mass index- and age-matched females without the disorder. Additionally, studies in both women with PCOS and rodent models of PCOS demonstrated that hyperandrogenism is associated with gut microbial dysbiosis, indicating that androgens may modulate the gut microbial community in females. One study reported that the fecal microbiome transplantation of stool from women with PCOS or exposure to certain bacteria resulted in a PCOS-like phenotype in mice, while other studies showed that exposure to a healthy gut microbiome, pre/probiotics, or specific gut metabolites resulted in protection from developing PCOS-like traits in mice. Altogether, these results suggest that dysbiosis of the gut microbiome may be sufficient to develop PCOS-like symptoms and that modulation of the gut microbiome may be a potential therapeutic target for PCOS.

Keywords: bile acids; gut microbiome; hyperandrogenism; insulin resistance; polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review