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Open access

A Daniel Bird, Spencer Greatorex, David Reser, Gareth G Lavery and Timothy J Cole

Steroid hormones play clinically important and specific regulatory roles in the development, growth, metabolism, reproduction and brain function in human. The type 1 and 2 11-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzymes (11β-HSD1 and 2) have key roles in the pre-receptor modification of glucocorticoids allowing aldosterone regulation of blood pressure, control of systemic fluid and electrolyte homeostasis and modulation of integrated metabolism and brain function. Although the activity and function of 11β-HSDs is thought to be understood, there exists an open reading frame for a distinct 11βHSD-like gene; HSD11B1L, which is present in human, non-human primate, sheep, pig and many other higher organisms, whereas an orthologue is absent in the genomes of mouse, rat and rabbit. We have now characterised this novel HSD11B1L gene as encoded by 9 exons and analysis of EST library transcripts indicated the use of two alternate ATG start sites in exons 2 and 3, and alternate splicing in exon 9. Relatively strong HSD11B1L gene expression was detected in human, non-human primate and sheep tissue samples from the brain, ovary and testis. Analysis in non-human primates and sheep by immunohistochemistry localised HSD11B1L protein to the cytoplasm of ovarian granulosa cells, testis Leydig cells, and gonadatroph cells in the anterior pituitary. Intracellular localisation analysis in transfected human HEK293 cells showed HSD1L protein within the endoplasmic reticulum and sequence analysis suggests that similar to 11βHSD1 it is membrane bound. The endogenous substrate of this third HSD enzyme remains elusive with localisation and expression data suggesting a reproductive hormone as a likely substrate.

Open access

Kerry V Fanson, Tamara Keeley and Benjamin G Fanson

In the context of reproduction, glucocorticoids (GCs) are generally considered to have negative effects. However, in well-studied model species, GCs fluctuate predictability across the estrous cycles, and short-term increases promote healthy ovarian function. Reproductive challenges have plagued captive elephant populations, which are not currently self-sustaining. Efforts to understand reproductive dysfunction in elephants have focused on the suppressive effects of cortisol, but the potential permissive or stimulatory effects of cortisol are unknown. In this study, we provide a detailed examination of cortisol patterns across the estrous cycle in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Time series analysis was used to analyze cortisol and progesterone data for a total of 73 cycles from eight females. We also compared cortisol profiles between females that successfully conceived and females that failed to conceive despite repeated mating attempts. Our results revealed that cortisol fluctuates predictably across the estrous cycle, with a peak during the second half of the follicular phase followed by low levels throughout the luteal phase. Furthermore, this pattern was significantly altered in nulliparous females; cortisol concentrations did not decline during the luteal phase to the same extent as in parous females. This study highlights the complexity of cortisol signaling and suggests future directions for understanding the role of cortisol in reproductive dysfunction.

Open access

Katica Bajuk Studen and Marija Pfeifer

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder in women of reproductive age. Besides hyperandrogenism, oligomenorrhea and fertility issues, it is associated with a high prevalence of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular risk factors. Several genetic polymorphisms have been identified for possible associations with cardiometabolic derangements in PCOS. Different PCOS phenotypes differ significantly in their cardiometabolic risk, which worsens with severity of androgen excess. Due to methodological difficulties, longer time-scale data about cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in PCOS and about possible beneficial effects of different treatment interventions is missing leaving many issues regarding cardiovascular risk unresolved.

Open access

Wolfgang Koechling, Daniel Plaksin, Glenn E Croston, Janni V Jeppesen, Kirsten T Macklon and Claus Yding Andersen

Recombinant FSH proteins are important therapeutic agents for the treatment of infertility, including follitropin alfa expressed in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells and, more recently, follitropin delta expressed in the human cell line PER.C6. These recombinant FSH proteins have distinct glycosylation, and have distinct pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles in women. Comparative experiments demonstrated that follitropin delta and follitropin alfa displayed the same in vitro potency at the human FSH receptor, but varied in their pharmacokinetics in mouse and rat. While follitropin delta clearance from serum depended in part on the hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR), follitropin alfa clearance was unaffected by ASGPR inhibition in rat or genetic ablation in mice. The distinct properties of follitropin delta and follitropin alfa are likely to contribute to the differing pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles observed in women and to influence their efficacy in therapeutic protocols for the treatment of infertility.

Open access

Nicolás Crisosto, Bárbara Echiburú, Manuel Maliqueo, Marta Luchsinger, Pedro Rojas, Sergio Recabarren and Teresa Sir-Petermann

Context

Intrauterine life may be implicated in the origin of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) modifying the endocrine and metabolic functions of children born to PCOS mothers independently of the genetic inheritance and gender. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the reproductive and metabolic functions in sons of women with PCOS during puberty.

Methods

Sixty-nine PCOS sons (PCOSs) and 84 control sons of 7–18 years old matched by the Tanner stage score were studied. A complete physical examination was conducted including anthropometric measurements (weight, height, waist, hip and body mass index). An oral glucose tolerance test was performed and circulating concentrations of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), sex hormone-binding globulin, testosterone, androstenedione (A4), 17α-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) and AMH were determined in the fasting sample.

Results

Waist-to-hip ratio, FSH and androstenedione levels were significantly higher in the PCOSs group compared to control boys during the Tanner stage II–III. In Tanner stages II–III and IV–V, PCOSs showed significantly higher total cholesterol and LDL levels. Propensity score analysis showed that higher LDL levels were attributable to the PCOSs condition and not to other metabolic factors. AMH levels were comparable during all stages. The rest of the parameters were comparable between both groups.

Conclusions

Sons of women with PCOS show increased total cholesterol and LDL levels during puberty, which may represent latent insulin resistance. Thus, this is a group that should be followed and studied looking for further features of insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk markers. Reproductive markers, on the other hand, are very similar to controls.

Open access

Dorte Glintborg, Magda Lambaa Altinok, Pernille Ravn, Kurt Bjerregaard Stage, Kurt Højlund and Marianne Andersen

Background/aims

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with insulin resistance, adrenal hyperactivity and decreased mental health. We aimed to investigate the changes in adrenal activity, metabolic status and mental health in PCOS during treatment with escitalopram or placebo.

Methods

Forty-two overweight premenopausal women with PCOS and no clinical depression were randomized to 12-week SSRI (20 mg escitalopram/day, n = 21) or placebo (n = 21). Patients underwent clinical examination, fasting blood samples, adrenocorticotroph hormone (ACTH) test, 3-h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and filled in questionnaires regarding mental health and health-related quality of life (HRQoL): WHO Well-Being Index (WHO-5), Major Depression Inventory (MDI), Short Form 36 (SF-36) and PCOS questionnaire.

Results

Included women were aged 31 (6) years (mean (s.d.)) and had body mass index (BMI) 35.8 (6.5) kg/m2 and waist 102 (12) cm. Escitalopram was associated with increased waist (median (quartiles) change 1 (0; 3) cm), P = 0.005 vs change during placebo and increased cortisol levels (cortisol 0, cortisol 60, peak cortisol and area under the curve for cortisol during ACTH test), all P< 0.05 vs changes during placebo. Escitalopram had no significant effect on measures of insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion, fasting lipids, mental health or HRQoL.

Conclusion

Waist circumference and cortisol levels increased during treatment with escitalopram in women with PCOS and no clinical depression, whereas metabolic risk markers, mental health and HRQol were unchanged.

Open access

Henrik Falhammar, Hedi Claahsen-van der Grinten, Nicole Reisch, Jolanta Slowikowska-Hilczer, Anna Nordenström, Robert Roehle, Claire Bouvattier, Baudewijntje P C Kreukels, Birgit Köhler and on behalf of the dsd-LIFE group

Objective

The knowledge about health status in adults with disorder of sex development (DSD) is scarce.

Design and methods

A cross-sectional observational study in 14 European tertiary centers recruited 1040 participants (717 females, 311 males, 12 others) with DSD. Mean age was 32.4 ± 13.6 year (range 16–75). The cohort was divided into: Turner (n = 301), Klinefelter (n = 224), XY-DSD (n = 222), XX-DSD (excluding congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and 46,XX males) (n = 21), 46,XX-CAH (n = 226) and 45,X/46,XY (n = 45). Perceived and objective health statuses were measured and compared to European control data.

Results

In DSD, fair to very good general health was reported by 91.4% and only 8.6% reported (very) bad general health (controls 94.0% and 6.0%, P < 0.0001). Longstanding health issues other than DSD and feeling limited in daily life were reported in 51.0% and 38.6%, respectively (controls 24.5% and 13.8%, P < 0.0001 both). Any disorder except DSD was present in 84.3% (controls 24.6%, P < 0.0001). Males reported worse health than females. In the subgroup analysis, Klinefelter and 46,XX-DSD patients reported bad general health in 15.7% and 16.7%, respectively (Turner 3.2% and CAH 7.4%). Comorbidities were prevalent in all DSD subgroups but Klinefelter and Turner were most affected. Early diagnosis of DSD and a healthy lifestyle were associated with less comorbidities.

Conclusions

Overall, general health appeared to be good but a number of medical problems were reported, especially in Klinefelter and Turner. Early diagnosis of DSD and a healthy lifestyle seemed to be important. Lifelong follow-up at specialized centers is necessary.

Open access

Frederic Schrøder Arendrup, Severine Mazaud-Guittot, Bernard Jégou and David Møbjerg Kristensen

Concern has been raised over chemical-induced disruption of ovary development during fetal life resulting in long-lasting consequences only manifesting themselves much later during adulthood. A growing body of evidence suggests that prenatal exposure to the mild analgesic acetaminophen/paracetamol can cause such a scenario. Therefore, in this review, we discuss three recent reports that collectively indicate that prenatal exposure in a period of 13.5 days post coitum in both rats and mouse can result in reduced female reproductive health. The combined data show that the exposure results in the reduction of primordial follicles, irregular menstrual cycle, premature absence of corpus luteum, as well as reduced fertility, resembling premature ovarian insufficiency syndrome in humans that is linked to premature menopause. This could especially affect the Western parts of the world, where the age for childbirth is continuously being increased and acetaminophen is recommended during pregnancy for pain and fever. We therefore highlight an urgent need for more studies to verify these data including both experimental and epidemiological approaches.

Open access

Luigi Laino, Silvia Majore, Nicoletta Preziosi, Barbara Grammatico, Carmelilia De Bernardo, Salvatore Scommegna, Anna Maria Rapone, Giacinto Marrocco, Irene Bottillo and Paola Grammatico

Sex development is a process under genetic control directing both the bi-potential gonads to become either a testis or an ovary, and the consequent differentiation of internal ducts and external genitalia. This complex series of events can be altered by a large number of genetic and non-genetic factors. Disorders of sex development (DSD) are all the medical conditions characterized by an atypical chromosomal, gonadal, or phenotypical sex. Incomplete knowledge of the genetic mechanisms involved in sex development results in a low probability of determining the molecular definition of the genetic defect in many of the patients. In this study, we describe the clinical, cytogenetic, and molecular study of 88 cases with DSD, including 29 patients with 46,XY and disorders in androgen synthesis or action, 18 with 46,XX and disorders in androgen excess, 17 with 46,XY and disorders of gonadal (testicular) development, 11 classified as 46,XX other, eight with 46,XX and disorders of gonadal (ovarian) development, and five with sex chromosome anomalies. In total, we found a genetic variant in 56 out of 88 of them, leading to the clinical classification of every patient, and we outline the different steps required for a coherent genetic testing approach. In conclusion, our results highlight the fact that each category of DSD is related to a large number of different DNA alterations, thus requiring multiple genetic studies to achieve a precise etiological diagnosis for each patient.

Open access

Masatada Watanabe, Shuji Ohno and Hiroshi Wachi

Emerging evidence suggests that sex steroids are important for human skin health. In particular, estrogen improves skin thickness, elasticity and moisture of older women. The major source of circulating estrogen is the ovary; however, local estrogen synthesis and secretion have important roles in, for example, bone metabolism and breast cancer development. We hypothesized that infiltrated peripheral monocytes are one of the sources of estrogen in skin tissues. We also hypothesized that, during atopic dermatitis under stress, a decline in the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) and facilitation of the (hypothalamus)–sympathetic–adrenomedullary system (SAM) attenuates estrogen secretion from monocytes. Based on this hypothesis, we tested aromatase expression in the human peripheral monocyte-derived cell line THP-1 in response to the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone (Dex), the synthetic β-agonist isoproterenol (Iso) and the β-antagonist propranolol (Pro). Dex mimics glucocorticoid secreted during excitation of the HPA, and Iso mimics catecholamine secreted during excitation of the SAM. We found that aromatase activity and the CYP19A1 gene transcript were both upregulated in THP-1 cells in the presence of Dex. Addition of Iso induced their downregulation and further addition of Pro rescued aromatase expression. These results may suggest that attenuation of estrogen secretion from peripheral monocytes could be a part of the pathology of stress-caused deterioration of atopic dermatitis. Further examination using an in vitro human skin model including THP-1 cells might be a valuable tool for investigating the therapeutic efficacy and mechanism of estrogen treatment for skin health.