Enhanced thecal androgen production is prenatally programmed in an ovine model of polycystic ovary syndrome

Kirsten Hogg, Julia M Young, Elizabeth M Oliver, Carlos J Souza, Alan S McNeilly, W Colin Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the hallmarks of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is increased ovarian androgen secretion that contributes to the ovarian, hormonal, and metabolic features of this condition. Thecal cells from women with PCOS have an enhanced capacity for androgen synthesis. To investigate whether this propensity is a potential cause, rather than a consequence, of PCOS, we used an ovine prenatal androgenization model of PCOS and assessed ewes at 11 months of age. Pregnant Scottish Greyface ewes were administered 100 mg testosterone propionate (TP) or vehicle control twice weekly from d 62 to 102 of gestation, and female offspring (TP = 9, control = 5) were studied. Prenatal TP exposure did not alter ovarian morphology or cyclicity, or plasma androgen, estrogen, and gonadotropin concentrations, at this stage. However, follicle function was reprogrammed in vivo with increased proportions of estrogenic follicles (P <0.05) in the TP-exposed cohort. Furthermore, in vitro the thecal cells of follicles (>4 mm) secreted more LH-stimulated androstenedione after prenatal androgenization (P <0.05), associated with increased basal expression of thecal StAR (P <0.01), CYP11A (P <0.05), HSD3B1 (P <0.01), CYP17 (P <0.05), and LHR (P <0.05). This provides the first evidence of increased thecal androgenic capacity in the absence of a PCOS phenotype, suggesting a thecal defect induced during fetal life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-61
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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