To determine the significant source(s) of estrogen production in women with polycystic ovarian disease (POD), 12 women underwent selective adrenal and ovarian vein catheterization, with simultaneous peripheral blood samplings for determination of cortisol, androstenedione (delta 4A), testosterone, estrone (E1), and estradiol (E2). Ovarian vein E2 gradients were observed in 11 of the 12 patients with a mean of 13.4, whereas adrenal blood samples did not demonstrate significant E2 gradients. Seven of 8 patients exhibited ovarian secretion of E1, with a mean gradient of 13.6 times that of peripheral blood, whereas 4 of the 8 adrenal samples showed E1 gradients. The mean value was 1.4 times peripheral levels. No significant correlations were found between peripheral E1 levels and body weight or degree of adiposity, nor was there a relationship between obesity and E1/delta 4A molar ratio in peripheral blood. The subjects with the highest ovarian delta 4A levels had a significant correlation between peripheral delta 4A and E1. Therefore, our data indicate a significant contribution of ovarian E1 secretion to the peripheral E1 pool in addition to the extraglandular conversion of delta 4A to E1. There was general lack of correlation between peripheral E1 concentrations and plasma E2, and these relationships versus body size suggest that the major source of E2 in women with POD was ovarian secretion.
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