The relationships of sex hormone-binding globulin, total testosterone, androstenedione and free testosterone with metabolic and reproductive features of polycystic ovary syndrome

Pomme I. H. G. Simons, Olivier Valkenburg, Judith A. P. Bons, Coen D. A. Stehouwer, Martijn C. G. J. Brouwers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Objective A recent Mendelian randomization study has suggested a causal role for sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), total testosterone and free testosterone in the pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The aim of this study was to assess the relationships of SHBG, androstenedione, total and free testosterone with the individual metabolic and reproductive features of PCOS.

Design Cross-sectional data in PCOS patients (n=96) prospectively collected in a secondary/tertiary clinic for menstrual cycle disorders.

Methods Multivariable regression analyses were conducted to study the associations between SHBG, androstenedione, total and free testosterone with metabolic (BMI, waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance [HOMA2-IR]) and reproductive features (menstrual cycle length, antral follicle count, anti-Mullerian hormone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and Ferriman-Gallwey score) of PCOS.

Results Serum SHBG and free testosterone, but not total testosterone or androstenedione, were significantly associated with BMI, waist circumference, serum triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HOMA2-IR. The strength of the associations with serum lipids was reduced after adjustment for BMI, but not for HOMA2-IR. Total testosterone was significantly associated with antral follicle count. SHBG, total testosterone and androstenedione were significantly associated with serum AMH. Only the strength of the association for SHBG was reduced after adjustment for BMI.

Conclusions Serum SHBG is associated with primarily metabolic features, whereas total testosterone and androstenedione are associated with reproductive features of PCOS. These results suggest a differential underlying pathophysiology for the metabolic and reproductive features of PCOS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00267
Number of pages10
JournalEndocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • androgens
  • metabolic syndrome
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • sex hormone-binding globulin
  • RISK

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