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A possible new mechanism in the pathophysiology of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): the discovery that leukocyte telomere length is strongly associated with PCOS.

Authors: Qiaoli Q. Li, Jing J. Du, Ruizhi R. Feng, Yao Y. Xu, Haojue H. Wang, Qing Q. Sang, Qinghe Q. Xing, Xinzhi X. Zhao, Li L. Jin, Lin L. He, Lei L. Wang
Published: 12/03/2013, The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism


Telomeres are specialized chromatin structures located at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes, and telomere length plays a clear role in various diseases. However, it is not known whether telomere length is related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).


We hypothesized that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) plays an important role in the pathophysiology of PCOS.


We used an established and validated quantitative PCR technique to measure the mean LTL in a large sample of PCOS patients and controls. We used logistic regression and multiple linear regression to analyze the association of PCOS and several related clinical parameters with the age-adjusted ratio of the telomere repeat length to the copy number of a single-copy gene (T/S).


Individuals with PCOS (n = 698) exhibited significantly shorter LTLs than the controls (n = 611) after adjusting for age (0.764 ± 0.016 vs 0.876 ± 0.023; P = .001; odds ratio = 1.403; 95% confidence interval, 1.150-1.712). The mean telomere length in the leukocytes of PCOS patients was comparable to that of control individuals who were on average 6.16 years older. Individuals having shorter telomere lengths (middle and lowest tertile) had significantly higher disease risk than those having the longest telomere length (highest tertile) (odds ratio = 1.614; 95% confidence interval, 1.262-2.066; P = .0001) after adjusting for age. In addition, a significant correlation between the LTL and the level of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate was observed in controls (r = -0.185; P = .01).


We provide the first report that LTL is strongly associated with PCOS. This study suggests a new role for LTL in the pathophysiology of PCOS and might have important implications for our understanding of the etiology of the disease.

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