The role of the adrenal cortex in polycystic ovary syndrome

Academic Article


  • Adrenal androgen excess affects approximately 25% of PCOS patients. The exact etiology of this excess in PCOS patients is unclear. Some evidence suggests that adrenal androgen excess may be a genetic trait. The adrenal androgen response to ACTH is highly individualized, and the relative response seems to be constant over time. In addition, there is a strong familial component to adrenal androgen levels in normal individuals and PCOS patients. It is possible that the tendency to overproduce adrenal androgens is an inherited risk factor for the development of PCOS. Overall, few hyperandrogenic patients actually have isolated deficiencies of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, 21-hydroxylase, and 11-hydroxylase. The ovarian hormonal secretion in PCOS can affect adrenal androgen secretion and metabolism, although this factor accounts for only part of this abnormality. More likely, the adrenal androgen excess results from a generalized hyperresponsiveness of the adrenal cortex to ACTH, but without an increase in CRH or ACTH sensitivity. Although glucocorticoid administration may improve the ovulatory function of these patients, the results are modest and cannot be predicted by the circulating androgen levels.
  • Authors

    Author List

  • Moran C; Azziz R
  • Start Page

  • 557
  • End Page

  • 568
  • Volume

  • 14
  • Issue

  • 4