Naturally occurring androgen excess cows are present in dairy and beef herds and have similar characteristics to women with PCOS

Mohamed A. Abedal-Majed, Shelby A. Springman, Hanan D. Jafar, Brooke E. Bell, Scott G. Kurz, Kyle E. Wilson, Andrea S. Cupp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Beef cows with excess androstenedione (A4; High A4) in follicular fluid (FF) and secreted by the ovarian cortex have been reported from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln physiology herd displaying characteristics reminiscent of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Thus, we hypothesized that naturally occurring High A4 cows were present in other dairy and beef herds. Fourteen Jordan (Amman, Jordon) dairy heifers and 16 U.S. Meat Animal Research Center beef heifers were classified by FF (High A4: A4 > 40 ng/mL and Control: A4 < 20 ng/mL) and/or cortex culture media (High A4 > 1 ng/mL/d or Control < 1 ng/mL/d). High A4 dairy heifers (n = 6) had greater A4 concentrations (7.6-fold) in FF and (98-fold) greater in ovarian cortex culture media with greater numbers of primordial and fewer later-stage follicles than Controls (n = 8) even after 7 d of culture. Also, the ovarian cortex had greater staining for Picro Sirius red in High A4 dairy heifers compared with Controls indicating increased fibrosis. Thecal cells from High A4 dairy heifers had greater STAR, LHCGR, CYP17A, CD68, and PECAM mRNA expression with increased mRNA abundance of CYP17A1 and CD68 in the ovarian cortex cultures compared with Control dairy heifers. Similarly, cortex culture media from High A4 beef heifers (n = 10) had increased A4 (290-fold; P ? 0.001), testosterone (1,427-fold; P ? 0.001), and progesterone (9-fold; P ? 0.01) compared with Control heifers with increased primordial follicles and decreased later-stage follicles even after 7 d of culture, indicating abnormal follicular development. High A4 ovarian cortex cultures from beef heifers also had increased fibrosis markers and greater expression of PECAM (P = 0.01) with a tendency for increased vascular endothelial cadherin compared with Controls (n = 6). These two trials support our hypothesis that naturally occurring androgen excess cows are present in other dairy and beef herds. The ability to identify these females that have excess A4 ovarian microenvironments may allow for their use in understanding factors causing abnormal follicle development linked to androgen excess and inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberskac151
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • Androstenedione
  • Fibrosis
  • Follicle stages
  • Inflammation
  • Ovarian cortex cultures
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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