PPM1K-regulated impaired catabolism of branched-chain amino acids orchestrates polycystic ovary syndrome

EBioMedicine. 2023 Mar;89:104492. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2023.104492. Epub 2023 Feb 28.


Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common diseases with the coexistence of reproductive malfunction and metabolic disorders. Previous studies have found increased branched chain amino acid (BCAA) levels in women with PCOS. However, it remains unclear whether BCAA metabolism is causally associated with the risk of PCOS.

Methods: The changes of BCAA levels in the plasma and follicular fluids of PCOS women were detected. Mendelian randomization (MR) approaches were used to explore the potential causal association between BCAA levels and the risk of PCOS. The function of the gene coding the protein phosphatase Mg2+/Mn2+-dependent 1K (PPM1K) was further explored by using Ppm1k-deficient mouse model and PPM1K down-regulated human ovarian granulosa cells.

Findings: BCAA levels were significantly elevated in both plasma and follicular fluids of PCOS women. Based on MR, a potential direct, causal role for BCAA metabolism was revealed in the pathogenesis of PCOS, and PPM1K was detected as a vital driver. Ppm1k-deficient female mice had increased BCAA levels and exhibited PCOS-like traits, including hyperandrogenemia and abnormal follicle development. A reduction in dietary BCAA intake significantly improved the endocrine and ovarian dysfunction of Ppm1k-/- female mice. Knockdown of PPM1K promoted the conversion of glycolysis to pentose phosphate pathway and inhibited mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in human granulosa cells.

Interpretation: Ppm1k deficiency-impaired BCAA catabolism causes the occurrence and development of PCOS. PPM1K suppression disturbed energy metabolism homeostasis in the follicular microenvironment, which provided an underlying mechanism of abnormal follicle development.

Funding: This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2021YFC2700402, 2019YFA0802503), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81871139, 82001503, 92057107), the CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Sciences (2019-I2M-5-001), Key Clinical Projects of Peking University Third Hospital (BYSY2022043), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2021T140600), and the Collaborative Innovation Program of Shanghai Municipal Health Commission (2020CXJQ01).

Keywords: BCAA Catabolism; Mendelian randomization; PCOS; PPM1K.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Animals
  • China
  • Female
  • Follicular Fluid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Ovarian Follicle / metabolism
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Protein Phosphatase 2C / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • PPM1K protein, human
  • Protein Phosphatase 2C