The Role of Genetics, Epigenetics and Lifestyle in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Development: the State of the Art

Reprod Sci. 2022 Mar;29(3):668-679. doi: 10.1007/s43032-021-00515-4. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine-metabolic disease affecting about 20-25% of women in reproductive age. Different mechanisms could contribute to the development of its typical clinical features (i.e. hirsutism, acne, oligo-amenorrhea, alopecia). Some genetic and epigenetic aspects and lifestyle changes seem to be involved in PCOS development. In this review, we shall summarize data from principal studies evaluating the impact of major genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors on the appearance of this female disorder. Literature review and analysis of the most relevant data until May 2020. Current data suggest the importance of genetics and epigenetics in the appearance of PCOS. Several genes, including those related to adrenal and ovarian steroidogenesis as well as those associated with hormonal response to gonadotrophins, androgens and insulin, have been demonstrated to be associated with PCOS. Besides, the phenomenon of methylation of genes and the presence of specific microRNA (miRNA) could take part in PCOS aetiology. Intrauterine exposure to androgens, glucocorticoids and/or some stressful conditions for foetus could contribute to the development of PCOS and other disorders observed in adolescence and later (e.g. premature adrenarche, atypical puberty, metabolic syndrome). Emerging studies report a theoretical role of endocrine disruptors, intestinal dysbiosis and Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) in PCOS. PCOS is a polygenic and multifactorial hormonal and metabolic dysfunction. An appropriate knowledge of personal and/or family history, lifestyle and nutritional habits of PCOS patients has a great importance to early identify and manage this syndrome.

Keywords: Environment; Epigenetics; Genetics; Lifestyle; Polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epigenomics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / genetics*