Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Gene Linked to Excess Male Hormones in Female Infertility Disorder

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Discovery by NIH-supported researchers may lead to diagnostic test, treatment.

A variant in a gene active in cells of the ovary may lead to the overproduction of androgens - male hormones similar to testosterone - occurring in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (, according to scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health. The discovery may provide information to develop a test to diagnose women at risk for PCOS and also for the development of a treatment for the condition.

In addition to high levels of androgens, symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and insulin resistance (difficulty using insulin.) The condition affects approximately 5 to 7 percent of women of reproductive age and increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. In PCOS, higher levels of androgens may also cause excess facial and body hair, as well as severe acne.

"PCOS is a major cause of female infertility and is associated with other serious health problems," said Louis V. De Paolo, chief of the Fertility and Infertility Research Branch of NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. "In identifying this gene, the study authors have uncovered a promising new lead in the long search for more effective ways to diagnose and treat the condition, and perhaps, to one day prevent it from even occurring."

The study was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study's primary author was Jan M. McAllister, Ph.D, professor of pathology, obstetrics and gynecology, and cellular and molecular physiology in the Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pa.

The researchers narrowed their search to the gene called DENND1A, which contains the information needed to make a protein. This protein is made in theca cells, which line the inner surface of ovarian follicles, the temporary, sphere-like structures which ultimately break open and give rise to the egg each month.

In women with PCOS, the follicles fail to mature normally. Instead of rupturing during the monthly cycle to release the egg, the follicles accumulate and form numerous cyst-like structures. Previous studies have shown that in PCOS, theca cells are the source of the high levels of androgens found in women with the condition.

PCOS appears to run in families, but no genes have been definitively linked to the disorder. Researchers believe that PCOS probably results from the interaction of several genes, and perhaps to interactions between certain genes and the environment.

Previously, researchers conducting genome-wide scans (searches of all of a person's genes) of women in China identified several candidate genes in locations on chromosomes that were associated with the disease. One of these locations harbored the gene for DENND1A. Researchers conducting genome-wide scans of people of Asian and European descent also confirmed the gene's association with PCOS.

For the current study, Dr. McAllister and her colleagues grew theca cells from women with PCOS in laboratory dishes. Compared to theca cells from women without PCOS, theca cells taken from women with PCOS produced high levels of a variant form of DENND1A, DENNDA1A.V2. V2 indicates variant 2, to distinguish it from the more commonly seen form of the protein, known as DENND1A.V1.

The researchers next conducted a battery of experiments on the cells to determine what role DENND1A.V2 might play in PCOS. They began by manipulating the theca cells from women who did not have PCOS to produce high levels of DENND1A.V2. The theca cells, which previously functioned normally, began producing elevated levels of androgens. Similarly, when the researchers blocked the function of DENND1A.V2 in theca cells from women with PCOS, androgen levels in those cells dropped sharply, as did to the activity of other genes that make androgen and the levels of messenger RNA needed to produce androgens. The study authors noted that DENND1A.V2 is also found in other cells that make androgens, including cells in the testes, as well as in a type of cancer cell occurring in the adrenal glands.

The cells from women with PCOS also contained higher levels of the messenger RNA for DENND1A.V2. Messenger RNA converts the information contained within DNA into a protein.

In addition, the researchers found that the messenger RNA for DENND1A.V2 protein was higher in urine samples from PCOS patients than in urine samples of women in the control group.

"PCOS is often difficult to diagnose, especially in adolescents," Dr. McAllister said. "The fact that DENND1A.V2 is present in urine opens up the possibility that it might provide the basis for a test to screen for PCOS."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Batten Disease may Benefit from Gene Therapy
NIH-funded animal study suggests one-shot approach to injecting genes.
Friday, November 13, 2015
NIH Researchers Link Single Gene Variation to Obesity
Variation in the BDNF gene may affect brain’s regulation of appetite, study suggests.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Researchers Identify Potential Alternative to CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing Tools
New Cas enzymes shed light on evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Potential Alternative to CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing Tools
New Cas enzymes shed light on evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Charting Genetic Variation Across the Globe
An international team of scientists has created the world’s largest catalog of human genetic differences in populations around the globe.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Gene Therapy Staves Off Blindness from Retinitis Pigmentosa in Canine Model
NIH-funded study suggests therapeutic window may extend to later-stage disease.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Scientists Develop Genetic Blueprint of Inner Ear Cell Development
Two studies in mice use new technique to provide insight into cell development critical for hearing, balance.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
NIH Breast Cancer Research to Focus On Prevention
A new phase of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), focused on prevention, is being launched at the National Institutes of Health.
Friday, October 09, 2015
NIH Grantees Win 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to NIH grantees Paul Modrich, Ph.D., of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.; and Aziz Sancar, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.,.
Thursday, October 08, 2015
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
NIH Funding Targets Gaps in Biomedical Research
New awards support emerging issues in cutting-edge biomedical research fields.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Scientists Test New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss from a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Dormant Viral Genes May Awaken to Cause ALS
NIH human and mouse study may open an unexplored path for finding treatments.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Scientists Create World’s Largest Catalog of Human Genomic Variation
An international team of scientists from the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium has created the world’s largest catalog of genomic differences among humans, providing researchers with powerful clues to help them establish why some people are susceptible to various diseases.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Genetic Adaptations to Diet and Climate
Researchers found genetic variations in the Inuit of Greenland that reflect adaptations to their specific diet and climate.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Scientific News
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
GMO Food Animals Should be Judged by Product, Not Process
In a world with a burgeoning demand for meat, milk and eggs, regulatory policies around the use of biotechnologies in agriculture need to be based on the safety and attributes of those foods rather than on the methods used to produce them, says a UC Davis animal scientist.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos