Objective: Elevated androgens in women are associated with type 2 diabetes and are dependent on the conversion to estrogens by aromatase cytochrome P450. Polymorphisms of a tetranucleotide repeat [TTTA]n in the fourth intron of the CYP19 gene are associated with endocrine-dependent diseases and were examined in relation to hormone levels and disease risk factors in premenopausal women.
Research Methods and Procedures: A population sample of women born in 1956 (n = 270) were genotyped for this polymorphism and the results set in relation to steroid hormones, including saliva cortisol, anthropometric variables, estimates of insulin, glucose and lipid metabolism, and blood pressure.
Results: Seven tetranucleotide repeat [TTTA]n alleles were detected with allelic sizes of 168 to 195 bp, with a TCT deletion/insertion (168/171 bp) upstream of this microsatellite. Smoking was associated with elevated androgens (p = 0.005 to 0.019). Using the median (average stretch, 177.5 bp) as a dividing line, nonsmoking women with the shorter microsatellite had higher free testosterone (p = 0.018) and lower sex hormone binding globulin (p = 0.033). These differences were pronounced with the 168-bp allele. Such women were also characterized by a less-substantial decrease of morning cortisols (“unwinding”; p = 0.035) and central obesity (abdominal sagittal diameter, p = 0.049) and had waist/hip circumference ratios of borderline significance (p = 0.064).
Discussion: The results indicate that, in premenopausal women, a short microsatellite in the fourth intron of the CYP19 gene, caused by a TCT deletion upstream the [TTTA]n tract, is associated with elevated androgens, perturbed regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and abdominal obesity.