Bilateral adrenal hyperplasia as a possible mechanism for hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

E. Gourgari, M. Lodish, M. Keil, N. Sinaii, E. Turkbey, C. Lyssikatos, M. Nesterova, M. Sierra, P. Xekouki, D. Khurana, S. Ten, A. Dobs, C. A. Stratakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Context: Androgen excess may be adrenal and/or ovarian in origin; we hypothesized that a subgroup of patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may have some degree of abnormal adrenocortical function. Objective: The objective of the study was to evaluate the pituitary adrenal axis with an oral low-and high-dose dexamethasone-suppression test (Liddle's test) in women with PCOS. Design: This was a case-control study. Setting: The study was conducted at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Participants: A total of 38 women with PCOS and 20 healthy volunteers (HV) aged 16-29 years participated in the study. Main Outcome Measures: Urinary free cortisol (UFC) and 17-hydroxysteroids (17OHS) before and after low- and high-dose dexamethasone and assessment of adrenal volume by computed tomography scan were measured. Results: Twenty-four-hour urinary 17OHS and UFC were measured during day 1 today 6 of the Liddle'stest. Baseline UFC levels were not different between PCOS and HVs; on the day after the completion of high-dose dexamethasone administration (d 6), UFC was higher in the PCOS group (2.0 ± 0.7 μg/m2d) than the HV group (1.5 ± 0.5) (P = .038). On day 5,17OHS and UFC were negatively correlated with adrenal volumes (left side, rp = -0.47, P = .009, and rp = -0.61, P < .001, respectively). PCOS patients above the 75th percentile for UFC and/or 17OHS after high-dose dexamethasone (n = 15) had a significantly smaller total adrenal volume (6.9 ± 1.9 cm3 vs 9.2 ± 1.8 cm3, P = .003) when compared with the remaining PCOS patients (n = 22), but they did not have worse insulin resistance or hyperandrogenism. Conclusions: In a subset of young women with PCOS, we detected a pattern of glucocorticoid secretion that mimicked that of patients with micronodular adrenocortical hyperplasia: they had smaller adrenal volumes and higher steroid hormone secretion after dexamethasone compared with the group of PCOS with appropriate response to dexamethasone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3353-3360
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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