The study explored differences in the steroidogenic pathway between obese and nonobese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).
1044 women with PCOS (including 350 lean, 312 overweight and 382 obese) and 366 control women without PCOS (including 203 lean, 32 overweight and 131 obese) were enrolled. The differences in steroid hormones were amplified in lean PCOS versus lean controls compared with obese PCOS versus obese controls.
Compared with obese PCOS, lean PCOS demonstrated increased dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (P = 0.015), 17-hydropregnenolone (P = 0.003), 17-hydroprogesterone (17-OHP) (P < 0.001), progesterone (P < 0.001) and estrone (P < 0.001) levels. Enzyme activity evaluation showed that lean PCOS had increased activity of P450c17 (17-hydropregnenolone/pregnenolone, P < 0.001), P450aro (P < 0.001), 3βHSD2 (progesterone/ pregnenolone and 17-OHP/17-hydropregnenolone, both P < 0.001) and decreased activity of P450c21(11-deoxycorticorsterone/progesterone and 11-deoxycortisol/17-OHP, P < 0.001).
Moreover, we found higher frequencies of CYP21A2- (encoding P450c21) c.552 C > G (p. D184E) in lean PCOS compared with obese PCOS patients (P = 0.006). In conclusion, this study demonstrated for the first time that the adrenal-specific enzyme P450c21 showed decreased activity in lean PCOS patients, and that the adrenal androgen excess may play different roles in lean and obese PCOS patients, which represents as different enzyme activity in the steroidogenic pathway.