Chronic hyperandrogenemia and western-style diet beginning at puberty reduces fertility and increases metabolic dysfunction during pregnancy in young adult, female macaques

C. V. Bishop, R. L. Stouffer, D. L. Takahashi, E. C. Mishler, M. C. Wilcox, O. D. Slayden, C. A. True

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


STUDY QUESTION: What are the impacts of elevated testosterone (T) and an obesogenic western-style diet (WSD), either independently or together, on fertility and metabolic adaptations of pregnancy in primates? SUMMARY ANSWER: Testosterone increases the time to achieve pregnancy, while a WSD reduces overall fertility, and the combination of testosterone and WSD additionally impairs glucose tolerance and causes pregnancy loss. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Both hyperandrogenemia and obesity are hallmarks of polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a leading cause of infertility among women worldwide. Female macaques receiving T and WSD beginning at puberty show increased metabolic, ovarian and uterine dysfunction in the non-pregnant state by 3 years of treatment. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: The same cohort of female rhesus macaques continued treatments from the time of puberty (2.5 years) to 4 years, including this fertility trial. There were four groups (n = 910/group): controls (C), T-treated (T; average total serum level 1.35 ng/ml), WSD-treated, and combined T and WSD-treated (T + WSD) females. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Females, which were typically having menstrual cycles, were paired for 4 days with a proven male breeder following the late follicular rise in circulating estradiol (?100 pg/ml). The presence of sperm in the reproductive tract was used to confirm mating. Animals went through up to three successive rounds of mating until they became pregnant, as confirmed by a rise in circulating mCG during the late luteal phase and ultrasound evidence of a gestational sac at Day 30 post-mating (GD30). Placental vascular parameters were also measured at GD30. Metabolic measurements consisted of fasting levels of blood glucose and insulin at approximately GD30, 60, 90 and 115, as well as an intravenous (iv) glucose tolerance test (GTT) at GD115. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: While all animals in the C and T groups eventually became pregnant, T-treated females on average had a greater interval to achieve pregnancy (P < 0.05). However, only ~70% of animals in theWSD and T + WSD groups became pregnant (P < 0.004). One pregnancy in T + WSD group resulted in an anembryonic pregnancy which miscarried around GD60, while another T + WSD female conceived with a rare identical twin pregnancy which required cessation due to impending fetal loss at GD106. Thus, the number of viable fetuses was less in the T +WSD group, compared to C, T or WSD. Placental blood volume at GD30 was reduced in all treatments compared to the C group (P < 0.05). Maternal P4 levels were elevated in theWSD (P < 0.03) group and E2 levels were elevated in T + WSD animals (P < 0.05). An increase in serum A4 levels throughout gestation was observed in all groups (P < 0.03) exceptWSD (P = 0.3). All groups displayed increased insulin resistance with pregnancy, as measured from the ivGTT during pregnancy. However, only the T + WSD group had a significant increase in fasting glucose levels and glucose clearance during the GTT indicating a worsened glucose tolerance. WSD treatment decreased female fetuses third trimester weights, but there was an interaction between WSD and T to increase female fetal weight when normalized to maternal weight. LARGE SCALE DATA: N/A. LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: The small number of pregnancies in the WSD and T + WSD groups hampers the ability to make definitive conclusions on effects during gestation. Also, the high fertility rate in the controls indicates the cohort was at their breeding prime age, which may impair the ability to observe subtle fertility defects. The low number of fetuses used for male and female analysis requires additional studies. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The current findings strongly suggest that both hyperandrogenemia and obesity have detrimental effects on fertility and gestation in primates, which may be directly relevant to women with polycystic ovary syndrome. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): All ONPRC Cores and Units were supported by NIH Grant P51 OD011092 awarded to ONPRC. Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number P50HD071836 (to R.L.S.). The authors have no competing conflict of interests to disclose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-705
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • PCOS
  • fertility
  • gestational diabetes
  • glucose tolerance
  • hyperandrogenemia
  • maternal obesity
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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