Significance of pro-angiogenic estrogen metabolites in normal follicular development and follicular growth arrest in polycystic ovary syndrome

Henríquez S, Kohen P, Xu X, Villarroel C, Muñoz A, Godoy A, Strauss JF, Devoto L.

Keywords: angiogenesis, vegf, 16-ketoestradiol, 4-hydroxyestrone, 2-hydroxyestradiol, follicular growth arrest, polycystic ovary syndrome.


Abstract Study question: Do alterations in pro- and anti-angiogenic estrogen metabolites in follicular fluid (FF) contribute to the follicular growth arrest and anovulation associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? Summary answer: FF of PCOS women with anovulation have reduced levels of pro-angiogenic estrogen metabolites (EMs) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) compared to that of fertile women with regular menstrual cycles, but exogenous gonadotropins increase the pro-angiogenic EMs and VEGF levels in PCOS women. What is known already: PCOS is characterized by the arrest of follicular development that leads to chronic anovulation. Follicular arrest is generally associated with elevated plasma levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), androgens and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH). There is also reduced angiogenesis in the follicles of PCOS women compared to those of normal cycling women. It is known that angiogenesis is a critical factor during follicular development. We and other investigators have explored the role of EMs in ovarian angiogenesis, particularly in human corpus luteum function, showing that 4-hydroxyestrone (4-OHE1) and 16-ketoestradiol (16-kE2) have pro-angiogenic effects while 2-methoxyestradiol (2-ME2) and 2-methoxyestrone (2-ME1) have anti-angiogenic effects. Additionally, 2-hydroxyestradiol (2-OHE2), which is produced in the ovary, has proliferative and pro-angiogenic properties. We hypothesized that EMs could be involved in angiogenesis necessary for ovarian follicular development in fertile women, and that dysregulation of these factors may contribute to follicular arrest in PCOS. The relationship between EMs, VEGF and AMH in the pathophysiology of follicular arrest in PCOS has not been previously studied at a follicular level in anovulatory women without ovulation induction. Study design, size, duration: This is a comparative experimental study of serum and FF collected from different sized follicles (antral ˂10 mm and dominant ˃16 mm) of women with and without ovarian stimulation. The study included women with regular menstrual cycles who were proven to be fertile (n = 20) and PCOS women with follicular arrest who were candidates for ovarian drilling (n = 17), as well as other patients requiring ovarian stimulation, i.e. control women undergoing IVF for male factor infertility (n = 12) and PCOS women undergoing IVF (n = 17). In vitro studies were carried out on granulosa-lutein cells (GCs) obtained from subsets of women undergoing IVF for male factor infertility (n = 6) and PCOS women undergoing IVF (n = 6). GCs were maintained in culture for up to 6 days. Participants/materials, setting, methods: Intrafollicular estradiol, estrone and EMs concentrations were determined by high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Testosterone in serum was measured by RIA, and LH, FSH and sex hormone-binding globulin in serum were measured with IRMA kits. AMH was determined in serum and FF by enzyme linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA). VEGF levels were measured in FF and conditioned medium by ELISA. Conditioned medium were obtained from cultured GCs. The angiogenic potential was assessed by in vitro angiogenic assays. Main results and the role of chance: Pro-angiogenic EMs (4-OHE1, 16-kE2 and 2-OHE2) and VEGF were lower in FF of antral follicles of PCOS women with follicular arrest compared those of fertile women with ovulatory cycles (P < 0.05). In contrast, higher concentrations of AMH were found in FF of antral follicles from PCOS women with follicular arrest compared to those of fertile women with ovulatory cycles (P < 0.05). Exogenous gonadotropins used in IVF increased pro-angiogenic EMs and VEGF production in PCOS women, reaching similar profiles compared to control women receiving gonadotropins in their IVF treatment for male factor infertility. The pro-angiogenic EM 2-OHE2 increased the angiogenic potential and VEGF levels of GCs from PCOS women compared to the basal condition (P < 0.05). These findings suggest that there is a role for pro-angiogenic EMs in the control of follicular VEGF production. Limitations, reasons for caution: The limitations include the possibility that in vitro analysis of GCs might not reflect the in vivo mechanisms involved in the pro-angiogenic action of 2-OHE2 since GCs obtained at the time of oocyte retrieval belong to a very early stage of the luteal phase and might not be representative of GCs during follicular growth. Therefore, our findings do not conclusively rule out the possibility that other in vivo mechanisms also account for defective angiogenesis observed in PCOS. Wider implications of the findings: The present study highlights the significance of EMs, angiogenic factors and AMH and their interaction in the pathophysiology of follicular development in PCOS. This study provides new insights into the role of pro-angiogenic factors in follicular arrest in PCOS. Study funding/competing interest(s): This study was funded by CONICYT/FONDECYT 1140693 and NIH grant R01HD083323. All authors declare no conflict of interest. Trial registration number: N/A.

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Título de la Revista: Human Reproduction
Editorial: Oxford University Press
Fecha de publicación: 2020
Página de inicio: 1
Página final: 11
Idioma: English
Financiamiento/Sponsor: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology