Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex phenotype that is defined by elevated testosterone levels and amenorrhea/oligomenorrhea. It occurs in ~7% of reproductive age women and is also strongly associated with obesity, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). While PCOS has a strong familial component and has been shown to be highly heritable (h2=0.8), traditional genetic studies conducted by our laboratory and others have identified only a limited number of reproducible PCOS susceptibility genetic loci. It is clear from current genetic studies of PCOS and other complex genetic phenotypes that common genetic variation does not explain the bulk of the observed heritability. One possible explanation for this observed deficit is that the observed heritability in complex phenotypes is due to epigenetic rather than genomic variation. Epigenetic changes are heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype that occur in the absence of changes to the DNA sequence. Variation in DNA methylation patterns is one major form of epigenetic variation and can be captured on a genomic level using methylation specific DNA arrays that test >450,000 DNA methylation sites. We hypothesize that: 1) a significant component of the heritability of PCOS is due to epigenetic changes including variation in niethylation pattern, 2) these changes in methylation patterns correlate with changes in expression patterns, and 3) these changes in methylation are due to either specific changes in the DNA or environmental factors including the in utero environment. We propose to test these hypotheses by assessing the differential DNA methylation status in target tissues (muscle, visceral fat, subcutaneous fat, and liver) of obese women with and without PCOS, the impact of differential methylation on gene expression, and whether the differential methylation status is due to genomic or epigenetic event. PCOS is common syndrome which severely impacts the health of affected women and their first degree relatives and contributes greater than $4 billion annually to our health care costs. The proposed studies will increase our understanding to the underlying pathways that are affected in PCOS and with the potential of improved treatment for this pervasive syndrome.

Public Health Relevance

PCOS is a common disorder defined by elvated male sex hormones and irregular menses and is strongly associated with obesity and diabetes. Current genetic approaches have failed to identify the bulk of the hertitable factors contributing to PCOS susceptibility. We propose to asses the role of epigenetic variation, heritable changes in gene expression that occur in the absence of DNA changes, in the cause of PCOS.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Specialized Center (P50)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-EMNR-Q)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Northwestern University at Chicago
United States
Zip Code
Kraynak, Marissa; Colman, Ricki J; Flowers, Matthew T et al. (2018) Ovarian estradiol supports sexual behavior but not energy homeostasis in female marmoset monkeys. Int J Obes (Lond) :
Abbott, David H; Vepraskas, Sarah H; Horton, Teresa H et al. (2018) Accelerated Episodic Luteinizing Hormone Release Accompanies Blunted Progesterone Regulation in PCOS-like Female Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca Mulatta) Exposed to Testosterone during Early-to-Mid Gestation. Neuroendocrinology 107:133-146
Gorsic, Lidija K; Kosova, Gulum; Werstein, Brian et al. (2017) Pathogenic Anti-Müllerian Hormone Variants in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 102:2862-2872
Abbott, D H; Rayome, B H; Dumesic, D A et al. (2017) Clustering of PCOS-like traits in naturally hyperandrogenic female rhesus monkeys. Hum Reprod 32:923-936
Sam, Susan; Vellanki, Priyathama; Yalamanchi, Sudha K et al. (2017) Exaggerated glucagon responses to hypoglycemia in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Metabolism 71:125-131
True, Cadence; Abbott, David H; Roberts Jr, Charles T et al. (2017) Sex Differences in Androgen Regulation of Metabolism in Nonhuman Primates. Adv Exp Med Biol 1043:559-574
Kraynak, Marissa; Flowers, Matthew T; Shapiro, Robert A et al. (2017) Extraovarian gonadotropin negative feedback revealed by aromatase inhibition in female marmoset monkeys. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 313:E507-E514
Gibson-Helm, Melanie; Teede, Helena; Dunaif, Andrea et al. (2017) Delayed Diagnosis and a Lack of Information Associated With Dissatisfaction in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 102:604-612
Dubois, Sharon L; Wolfe, Andrew; Radovick, Sally et al. (2016) Estradiol Restrains Prepubertal Gonadotropin Secretion in Female Mice via Activation of ER? in Kisspeptin Neurons. Endocrinology 157:1546-54
Azziz, Ricardo; Carmina, Enrico; Chen, ZiJiang et al. (2016) Polycystic ovary syndrome. Nat Rev Dis Primers 2:16057

Showing the most recent 10 out of 123 publications