Characterization of reproductive, metabolic, and endocrine features of polycystic ovary syndrome in female hyperandrogenic mouse models

A S L Caldwell, L J Middleton, M Jimenez, R Desai, A C McMahon, C M Allan, D J Handelsman, K A Walters
Endocrinology 2014, 155 (8): 3146-59
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age, causing a range of reproductive, metabolic and endocrine defects including anovulation, infertility, hyperandrogenism, obesity, hyperinsulinism, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Hyperandrogenism is the most consistent feature of PCOS, but its etiology remains unknown, and ethical and logistic constraints limit definitive experimentation in humans to determine mechanisms involved. In this study, we provide the first comprehensive characterization of reproductive, endocrine, and metabolic PCOS traits in 4 distinct murine models of hyperandrogenism, comprising prenatal dihydrotestosterone (DHT, potent nonaromatizable androgen) treatment during days 16-18 of gestation, or long-term treatment (90 days from 21 days of age) with DHT, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), or letrozole (aromatase inhibitor). Prenatal DHT-treated mature mice exhibited irregular estrous cycles, oligo-ovulation, reduced preantral follicle health, hepatic steatosis, and adipocyte hypertrophy, but lacked overall changes in body-fat composition. Long-term DHT treatment induced polycystic ovaries displaying unhealthy antral follicles (degenerate oocyte and/or > 10% pyknotic granulosa cells), as well as anovulation and acyclicity in mature (16-week-old) females. Long-term DHT also increased body and fat pad weights and induced adipocyte hypertrophy and hypercholesterolemia. Long-term letrozole-treated mice exhibited absent or irregular cycles, oligo-ovulation, polycystic ovaries containing hemorrhagic cysts atypical of PCOS, and displayed no metabolic features of PCOS. Long-term dehydroepiandrosterone treatment produced no PCOS features in mature mice. Our findings reveal that long-term DHT treatment replicated a breadth of ovarian, endocrine, and metabolic features of human PCOS and provides the best mouse model for experimental studies of PCOS pathogenesis.


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