It is now clear that PCOS is often associated with profound insulin resistance as well as with defects in insulin secretion. These abnormalities, together with obesity, explain the substantially increased prevalence of glucose intolerance in PCOS. Moreover, since PCOS is an extremely common disorder, PCOS-related insulin resistance is an important cause of NIDDM in women (Table 3). The insulin resistance in at least 50% of PCOS women appears to be related to excessive serine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor. A factor extrinsic to the insulin receptor, presumably a serine/threonine kinase, causes this abnormality and is an example of an important new mechanism for human insulin resistance related to factors controlling insulin receptor signaling. Serine phosphorylation appears to modulate the activity of the key regulatory enzyme of androgen biosynthesis, P450c17. It is thus possible that a single defect produces both the insulin resistance and the hyperandrogenism in some PCOS women (Fig. 19). Recent studies strongly suggest that insulin is acting through its own receptor (rather than the IGF-I receptor) in PCOS to augment not only ovarian and adrenal steroidogenesis but also pituitary LH release. Indeed, the defect in insulin action appears to be selective, affecting glucose metabolism but not cell growth. Since PCOS usually has a menarchal age of onset, this makes it a particularly appropriate disorder in which to examine the ontogeny of defects in carbohydrate metabolism and for ascertaining large three-generation kindreds for positional cloning studies to identify NIDDM genes. Although the presence of lipid abnormalities, dysfibrinolysis, and insulin resistance would be predicted to place PCOS women at high risk for cardiovascular disease, appropriate prospective studies are necessary to directly assess this.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism