Normal ovulatory women with polycystic ovaries have hyperandrogenic pituitary-ovarian responses to gonadotropin-releasing hormone-agonist testing

Peter L. Chang, Steven R. Lindheim, Cheri Lowre, Michel Ferin, Frank Gonzalez, Lars Berglund, Enrico Carmina, Mark V. Sauer, Rogerio A. Lobo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have chronic anovulation and hyperandrogenism and frequently have abnormalities in their lipid profiles and insulin/insulin-like growth factor axis that increase their lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease. Normal ovulatory women may have polycystic ovaries on ultrasonography and yet lack the clinical features of PCOS. To further explore whether ovulatory women without clinical/biochemical hyperandrogenism but with polycystic appearing ovaries (ov-PAO) have subclinical features of PCOS, we prospectively characterized 26 ov-PAO women and matched them by age and body mass index to 25 ovulatory women with normal appearing ovaries (ov-NAO) and to 22 women with PCOS. After an overnight fast, all women had baseline endocrine and metabolic assessments. In addition, a subset of each group of women underwent GnRH-agonist (leuprolide acetate 1 mg sc) testing, ACTH stimulation, and an insulin tolerance test (ITT). At baseline, ov-PAO and ov-NAO women had similar endocrine profiles (LH, LH:FSH, androstenedione, and DHEAS). Compared with ov-NAO, 31% of ov-PAO women had reduced glucose responses after insulin (Kitt), suggesting mild insulin resistance, and 35% had high density lipoprotein levels below 35 mg/dL, a level considered to represent significant cardiovascular risk. After GnRH-agonist, ov-PAO women had response patterns in LH, total testosterone, and 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) that were intermediate between ov-NAO and women with PCOS. Ovarian responses were above the normal range in 30-40% of women with ov-PAO. In ov-PAO, peak responses of LH after leuprolide correlated with triglyceride levels (P < 0.05) and peak responses of 17-OHP correlated inversely with Kitt values (P < 0.05). No significant differences were noted with ACTH testing. In conclusion, occult biochemical ovarian hyperandrogenism may be uncovered using GnRH-agonist in ovulatory women with ov-PAO, while adrenal responses remain normal. Subtle metabolic abnormalities may also be prevalent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)995-1000
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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