Hyperandrogenemia Induced by Letrozole Treatment of Pubertal Female Mice Results in Hyperinsulinemia Prior to Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance

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Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) diagnosed with hyperandrogenism and ovulatory dysfunction have an increased risk of developing metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We previously developed a model that uses letrozole to elevate endogenous testosterone levels in female mice. This model has hallmarks of PCOS, including hyperandrogenism, anovulation, and polycystic ovaries, as well as increased abdominal adiposity and glucose intolerance. In the current study, we further characterized the metabolic dysfunction that occurs after letrozole treatment to determine whether this model represents a PCOS-like metabolic phenotype. We focused on whether letrozole treatment results in altered pancreatic or liver function as well as insulin resistance. We also investigated whether hyperinsulinemia occurs secondary to weight gain and insulin resistance in this model or if it can occur independently. Our study demonstrated that letrozole-treated mice developed hyperinsulinemia after 1 week of treatment and without evidence of insulin resistance. After 2 weeks of letrozole treatment, mice became significantly heavier than placebo mice, demonstrating that weight gain was not required to develop hyperinsulinemia. After 5 weeks of letrozole treatment, mice exhibited blunted glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, insulin resistance, and impaired insulin-induced phosphorylation of AKT in skeletal muscle. Moreover, letrozole-treated mice exhibited dyslipidemia after 5 weeks of treatment but no evidence of hepatic disease. Our study demonstrated that the letrozole-induced PCOS mouse model exhibits multiple features of the metabolic dysregulation observed in obese, hyperandrogenic women with PCOS. This model will be useful for mechanistic studies investigating how hyperandrogenemia affects metabolism in females.

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