Premature adrenarche and functional adolescent androgen excess are common disorders which may evolve into polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In all three disorders, ACTH-stimulated 17-hydroxyprogesterone concentrations are often somewhat elevated. To determine the role of 21-hydroxylase (CYP21) gene mutations in these disorders, we performed molecular genotype analysis on 48 children and adolescents referred for evaluation of hyperandrogenic findings and diagnosed as having premature adrenarche or functional androgen excess. For comparison, DNA samples from 80 healthy adults were genotyped. Seventeen of the 48 hyperandrogenic patients were found to be heterozygotic carriers of CYP21 mutations. The frequency of heterozygosity was significantly greater among symptomatic patients (35%) than among the healthy controls (6%), P < 0.001. Seven mutation-positive patients (50%) and only one mutation-negative patient had ACTH-stimulated 17-hydroxyprogesterone concentrations typical for heterozygotic carriers of 21-hydroxylase deficiency, 400-1000 ng/d1. The significant difference in heterozygote frequency between symptomatic patients and healthy controls suggests that heterozygosity for 21-hydroxylase deficiency may be associated with premature adrenarche and functional adolescent hyperandrogenism. Longitudinal studies are necessary to determine if heterozygosity for 21-hydroxylase deficiency predicts risk for PCOS.
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