Chronic hyperandrogenemia in the presence and absence of a western-style diet impairs ovarian and uterine structure/function in young adult rhesus monkeys

Cecily V. Bishop, Emily C. Mishler, Diana L. Takahashi, Taylor E. Reiter, Kise R. Bond, Cadence A. True, Ov D. Slayden, Richard Stouffer

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21 Scopus citations


STUDY QUESTION: Does chronic hyperandrogenemia beginning at menarche, in the absence and presence of a western-style diet (WSD), alter ovarian and uterine structure-function in young adult rhesus monkeys? SUMMARY ANSWER: Phenotypic alterations in ovarian and uterine structure/function were induced by exogenous testosterone (T), and compounded in the presence of a WSD (T+WSD). WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Hyperandrogenemia is a well-established component of PCOS and is observed in adolescent girls, indicating a potential pubertal onset of disease symptoms. Obesity is often associated with hyperandrogenemia and it is hypothesized that metabolic dysfunction exacerbates PCOS symptoms. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Macaque females (n = 40) near the onset of menarche (2.5 years of age) were assigned to a 2 by 2 factorial cohort design. Effects on reproductive characteristics were evaluated after 3 years of treatment. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) were fed either a normal balanced diet (n = 20) or a WSD (n = 20). Additionally, implants containing cholesterol (n = 20) or T (n = 20) were implanted subcutaneously to elevate serum T approximately 5-fold. This resulted in treatment groups of controls (C), T, WSD and T+WSD (n = 10/group). Vaginal swabbing was performed daily to detect menses. After 3 years of treatment, daily serum samples from one menstrual cycle were assayed for hormone levels. Ovarian structure was evaluated in the early follicular phase by 3D/4D ultrasound. Uterine endometrial size and ovarian/luteal vascular function was also evaluated in subgroups (n = 6/group) in the late follicular and mid-luteal phases by 3D/4D ultrasound and contrastenhanced ultrasound, respectively. Expression of steroid hormone receptors and markers of decidualization and endometrial receptivity were assessed in endometrial biopsies at mid-luteal phase. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Approximately 90% of menstrual cycles appeared ovulatory with no differences in frequency or duration between groups. Serum estradiol (E2) levels during the early follicular phase were greatest in the T alone group, but reduced in T+WSD (P < 0.02). Serum LH was elevated in the T group (P < 0.04); however, there were no differences among groups in FSH levels (P > 0.13). Ovarian size at menses tended to be greater in the WSD groups (P < 0.07) and antral follicles ¥1 mm were more numerous in the T+WSD group (P < 0.05). Also, females in T and T+WSD groups displayed polycystic ovarian morphology (PCOM) at greater frequency than C or WSD groups (P < 0.01). Progesterone (P4) levels during the luteal phase were reduced in the T+WSD group compared to C and T groups (P < 0.05). Blood volume (BV) and vascular flow (VF) within the corpus luteum was reduced in all treatment groups compared to C (P < 0.01, P = 0.03), with the WSD alone group displaying the slowest BV and VF (P < 0.05). C and WSD groups displayed endometrial glands at mid-luteal phase with low estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1) and progesterone receptor (PGR) mRNA and immunohistochemical staining in the functionalis zone, but appreciable PGR in the stroma. In contrast, T and T+WSD treatment resulted in glands with less secretory morphology, high ESR1 expression in the glandular epithelium and low PGR in the stroma. Endometrial levels of TIMP3 and MMP26 mRNA and immunostaining were also decreased in the T and T+WSD groups, whereas AR expression was unchanged. LARGE SCALE DATA: None. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Females are young adults, so effects could change as they reach prime reproductive age. The T level generated for hyperandrogenemia may be somewhat greater than the 3-4-fold increase observed in adolescent girls, but markedly less than those observed in male monkeys or adolescent boys. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Alterations to ovarian and uterine structure-function observed in T and, in particular, T+WSD-treated female macaques are consistent with some of the features observed in women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and suggest impaired fertility. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number P50HD071836 (to RLS). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. Additional funding was provided by Office of the Director, NIH under Award Number P51OD011092 (Support for National Primate Research Center). Authors declare no competing interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • PCOS
  • hyperandrogenemia
  • obesity
  • rhesus macaque
  • western-style diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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