Ovarian Dysfunction in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome



The polycystic ovary (PCO) is defined by its increased size, the density and volume of the stroma, and the increased number of subcapsular follicles. This chapter details the current knowledge regarding the morphological and steroidogenic defects present in these ovaries. Although non-growing primordial follicle numbers in PCO appear normal, there is an increase in number once the follicles begin to grow. An overproduction of androgens by the ovarian theca cells of PCO is partly due to an increased expression and prolonged stability of messenger RNA coding for enzymes involved in steroidogenesis. Impairments in folliculogenesis and failure of dominant follicle selection underlie the ovulatory dysfunction commonly seen in PCOS. The mechanisms are unclear, but evidence suggests that in PCO, the follicles are prematurely luteinized, probably due to the combined effects of hyperinsulinemia and chronically elevated LH. Although a role for disordered levels of inhibitory polypeptide growth factors has not been confirmed, there is a new and emerging function for anti-Müllerian hormone in inhibition of follicle development. Within the growing ovarian follicles from an insulin-resistant woman with polycystic ovary syndrome, there is a divergence in insulin signalling such that the steroid synthesis pathway is sensitive to excess circulating insulin and responds with increased production of androgens and estrogens; in contrast, however, the insulin-stimulated glucose uptake pathway in PCO is resistant to actions of insulin. The latter paradox has implications for energy availability and metabolism, and affects both follicle growth and oocyte health in PCO.


Luteinizing Hormone Granulosa Cell Polycystic Ovary Follicular Fluid Antral Follicle 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical SciencesSt. George’s, University of LondonLondonUK

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