Evolutionary determinants of polycystic ovary syndrome Part 1

Uğur Ünlütürk, M.D., Efe Sezgin, Ph.D., Bulent Okan Yildiz, M.D.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common and complex genetic disorder that develops under varying degrees of hyperandrogenemic and hyperinsulinemic conditions that cause phenotypic variability ranging from mild hirsutism to anovulation and infertility. In addition to increased risk of reproductive disability, PCOS is associated with metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease. Similar prevalence rates and shared genetic susceptibility of PCOS among different populations suggest that genetic risk factors were already present in the ancestors of humans. Contemporary human genetic studies inform us that the origin of human ancestors is from Africa. Sharing common susceptibility loci between Chinese and European ancestry suggests that PCOS may have persisted for more than 50,000 years, before the migration of humans out of Africa. Although PCOS is the most common cause of anovulatory infertility, its high prevalence is still a paradox. From an evolutionary perspective, the pathogenic mechanisms underlying PCOS might be candidate factors for survival advantage of the human being. Former compensatory advantageous factors may become pathogenic mechanisms underlying complex metabolic disease with prolonged life expectancy and transition to sedentary lifestyle.

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