Indexed on: 17 Apr '10Published on: 17 Apr '10Published in: Annales d'Endocrinologie
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is defined as cessation of menstruation with associated elevation of gonadotropin levels as a result of decreased ovarian function before the age of 40. The incidence of POI is 1% in women prior to age 40, and 0.1% prior to age 30. There is evidence of a strong genetic component associated with POI. However, the gene mutations/variations influencing POI still remain uncharacterized. NR5A1, a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, is a key transcriptional regulator of genes involved in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal steroidogenic axis. Newborn mice deficient in NR5A1 lack both gonads and adrenal glands and have impaired expression of pituitary gonadotrophins. NR5A1 is also expressed in multiple cell types in the fetal, postnatal, prepubertal and mature ovary. Until 2008, 18 NR5A1 mutations were described in the human. Three of these were identified in individuals with adrenal insufficiency, two associated with 46,XY disorders of sex development (DSD) and the third a 46,XX female with conserved ovarian function. Other mutations were associated with various anomalies of testis development with no evidence of adrenal failure. We have identified further 19 mutations in NR5A1 including mutations in four familial cases having individuals with 46,XY DSD as well as POI. A further analysis of 25 sporadic cases of POI revealed two additional mutations. Functional analysis revealed that each mutant protein had altered transactivational properties on gonadal promoters. These data reveal novels insights into the role of NR5A1 in ovarian developmental and function and indicate that mutations of the NR5A1 gene may be a significant cause of human ovarian insufficiency.