Polycystic ovary syndrome as a proinflammatory state: the role of adipokines

Georgios K. Dimitriadis*, Ioannis Kyrou, Harpal S. Randeva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex heterogeneous disorder and the most common endocrinopathy amongst women of reproductive age. It is characterized by androgen excess, chronic anovulation and an altered cardiometabolic profile. PCOS is linked to impaired adipose tissue (AT) physiology and women with this disorder present with greater risk for insulin resistance (IR), hyperinsulinemia, central adiposity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) than matched for age and body mass index (BMI) women without PCOS. Hyperandrogenaemia appears to be driving adipocyte hypertrophy observed in PCOS under the influence of a hyperinsulinaemic state. Changes in the function of adipocytes have an impact on the secretion of adipokines, adipose tissue-derived proinflammatory factors promoting susceptibility to low grade inflammation. Methods: In this article, we review the existing knowledge on the interplay between hyperandrogenaemia, insulin resistance, impaired adipocyte biology, adipokines and chronic low-grade inflammation in PCOS. Results: In PCOS, more than one mechanisms have been suggested in the development of a chronic low-grade inflammation state with the most prevalent being that of a direct effect of the immune system on adipose tissue functions as previously reported in obese women without PCOS. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence regarding a direct mechanism linking hyperandrogenaemia to pro-inflammation in PCOS, there have been recent findings indicating that hyperandrogenaemia might be involved in chronic inflammation by exerting an effect on adipocytes morphology and attributes. Conclusion: Increasing evidence suggests that there is an important connection and interaction between proinflammatory pathways, hyperinsulinemia, androgen excess and adipose tissue hypertrophy and, dysfunction in PCOS. While lifestyle changes and individualized prescription of insulin-sensitizing drugs are common in managing PCOS, further studies are warranted to eventually identify an adipokine that could serve as an indirect marker of adipocyte dysfunction in PCOS, used as a reliable and pathognomic sign of metabolic alteration in this syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5535-5546
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Pharmaceutical Design
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note



  • adipocyte hypertrophy (AH)
  • adipokines
  • central obesity
  • hyperandrogenaemia
  • inflammation
  • insulin resistance (IR)
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)


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