Combined androgen excess and Western-style diet accelerates adipose tissue dysfunction in young adult, female nonhuman primates

Oleg Varlamov, Cecily V. Bishop, Mithila Handu, Diana Takahashi, Sathya Srinivasan, Ashley White, Charles T. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Study Question: What are the separate and combined effects of mild hyperandrogenemia and consumption of a high-fat Western-style diet (WSD) on white adipose tissue (WAT) morphology and function in young adult female nonhuman primates? Summary Answer: Combined exposure to mild hyperandrogenemia and WSD induces visceral omental (OM-WAT) but not subcutaneous (SC-WAT) adipocyte hypertrophy that is associated with increased uptake and reduced mobilization of free fatty acids. What is Known Already: Mild hyperandrogenemia in females, principally in the context of polycystic ovary syndrome, is often associated with adipocyte hypertrophy, but the mechanisms of associated WAT dysfunction and depot specificity remain poorly understood. Study Design, Size and Duration: Female rhesus macaques were randomly assigned at 2.5 years of age (near menarche) to receive either cholesterol (C; n = 20) or testosterone (T; n = 20)-containing silastic implants to elevate T levels 5-fold above baseline. Half of each of these groups was then fed either a low-fat monkey chow diet or WSD, resulting in four treatment groups (C, control diet; T alone; WSD alone; T + WSD; n = 10/group) that were maintained until the current analyses were performed at 5.5 years of age (3 years of treatment, young adults). Participants/Materials, Setting and Methods: OM and SC-WAT biopsies were collected and analyzed longitudinally for in vivo changes in adipocyte area and blood vessel density, and ex vivo basal and insulin-stimulated fatty acid uptake and basal and isoproterenol-stimulated lipolysis. Main Results and The Role of Chance: In years 2 and 3 of treatment, the T + WSD group exhibited a significantly greater increase in OM adipocyte size compared to all other groups (P < 0.05), while the size of SC adipocytes measured at the end of the study was not significantly different between groups. In year 3, both WAT depots from the WSD and T + WSD groups displayed a significant reduction in local capillary length and vessel junction density (P < 0.05). In year 3, insulin-stimulated fatty acid uptake in OM-WAT was increased in the T + WSD group compared to year 2 (P < 0.05). In year 3, basal lipolysis was blunted in the T and T + WSD groups in both WAT depots (P < 0.01), while isoproterenol-stimulated lipolysis was significantly blunted in the T and T + WSD groups only in SC-WAT (P < 0.01). Limitations, Reasons for Caution: At this stage of the study, subjects were still relatively young adults, so that the effects of mild hyperandrogenemia and WSD may become more apparent with increasing age. Wider Implications of The Findings: The combination of mild hyperandrogenemia and WSD accelerates the development of WAT dysfunction through T-specific (suppression of lipolytic response by T), WSD-dependent (reduced capillary density) and combined T + WSD (increased fatty acid uptake) mechanisms. These data support the idea that combined hyperandrogenemia and WSD increases the risk of developing obesity in females. Study Funding/Competing Interest(s): Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award number P50 HD071836 to C.T. R. and award number OD 011092 from the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, for operation of the Oregon National Primate Research Center. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1892-1902
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Adipose tissue
  • Androgen
  • Fatty acid
  • Hyperandrogenemia
  • Lipolysis
  • Nonhuman primates
  • Obesity
  • PCOS
  • Testosterone
  • Western-style diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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