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J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Mar;13(3):253-9.

Increased 5alpha-reductase and normal 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase metabolism of C19 and C21 steroids in a young population with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, New York University Medical Center, New York, USA.



To test the hypothesis that 5alpha-reductase (5alphaR) and 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11beta-HSD) activity are increased in adolescent and young-adult women with PCOS and that an altered regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis occurred in these subjects.


Prospective non-randomized study in an academic research environment.


Eleven women, aged 14 to 25 years, were studied who were at least one year post-menarche and who had a diagnosis of PCOS based on a history of oligomenorrhea and elevated total and or free serum testosterone.


24-Hour urinary metabolites were assessed in nine subjects and five underwent stimulation with ovine corticotropin releasing factor (oCRF).


C19 and C21 steroid urinary metabolite 5-alpha/5-beta pairs, 11-oxo/11-hydroxy products and the ratio of the total 5-alpha/5-beta reduced and 11-oxo/11-hydroxy products were compared to values in control women. Urinary cortisol (F) (sum of conjugated and free, and free F) and total F metabolites (the sum of THE, THF, 5alpha-THF, cortolones, and cortols) were determined. A 1 microg/kg oCRF stimulation test was performed with timed samples determined for plasma ACTH and serum F levels.


The 24-hour total and free urinary F were not different from control. However, the total F metabolites were markedly elevated (7922+/-2666 vs 5418+/-1549 microg/24 h, p<0.01). A marked increase in the total 5-alpha reduced C19 and C21 metabolites was observed in the PCOS population vs control (5084+/-1977 vs 2681+/-1188 microg/24 h, p<0.01). The total urinary 11-oxo/11-hydroxy metabolite ratio was not different, p=0.23. The basal values and response of both ACTH and F to oCRF stimulation were not different from those of controls.


There is a marked increase in 5alphaR metabolism of both C19 and C21 steroids in younger women with PCOS.

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