September 12, 2016
2 min read

Elevated serum irisin associated with free testosterone in adolescents with PCOS

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In lean, adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome, circulating irisin levels are positively associated with free testosterone, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology in Paris.

“Irisin is a potential biomarker for PCOS in adolescence,” Flora Bacopoulou, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Center for Adolescent Medicine and UNESCO chair of adolescent health care at the University of Athens Medical School in Athens, Greece, told Endocrine Today. “Measuring blood levels of the recently discovered hormone irisin may improve the diagnosis rates of teenagers with PCOS.”

Flora Bacopoulou
Flora Bacopoulou

Bacopoulou and colleagues analyzed data from 23 adolescents with PCOS aged 13 to 21 years diagnosed according to Rotterdam criteria and 17 age- and BMI-matched healthy controls (mean age, 17 years; mean BMI, 20.7 kg/m²). Researchers measured weight and height, ovarian volume and serum levels of irisin, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, testosterone, free testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, 17-hydroxyprogesterone and sex hormone-binding globulin, and calculated BMI, Ferriman-Gallwey score and free androgen index for each participant.

Patients with PCOS had increased mean ovarian volume, Ferriman-Gallwey score, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, testosterone, free testosterone, androstenedione, DHEA sulfate, 17-hydroxyprogesterone and free androgen index compared with controls, whereas SHBG was decreased. The mean serum irisin concentration among participants with PCOS was 1.71 µg/mL, and was elevated when compared with controls (mean, 1.04 µg/mL; P = .007). Using Spearman rank correlation coefficient, serum irisin was positively correlated with height (rs = 0.558; P < .001) and free testosterone (rs = 0.681; P < .001).

“Doctors are cautious when diagnosing PCOS in teenagers because the symptoms can be confused with normal pubertal changes,” Bacopoulou said. “Having tools that make diagnoses more accurate can reduce unnecessary treatment for otherwise healthy teenagers at a critical stage in their lives. On the other hand, teenagers who get an early diagnosis of PCOS can sooner start to deal with the physical and psychological symptoms caused by this lifelong condition.

“On the basis of the results of this study, the concept of skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ may be considered in PCOS,” Bacopoulou said. “If the elevated irisin release in adolescent PCOS is established, this could lead to the development of treatments for PCOS. Lifestyle changes and different exercise-related signals that regulate the secretion of irisin could provide a potential option for the management of PCOS.” – by Regina Schaffer


Bacopoulou F, et al. Abstract #FC7.2. Presented at: 55th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology; Sept. 10-12, 2016; Paris.

Disclosure: Bacopoulou reports no relevant financial disclosures.