- Open Access
Does ovary need D-chiro-inositol?
© Isabella and Raffone; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
- Received: 20 March 2012
- Accepted: 2 May 2012
- Published: 15 May 2012
The Expression of Concern to this article has been published in Journal of Ovarian Research 2018 11:57
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a multifactorial pathology that affects 10% of the women in reproductive age being the main cause of infertility due to menstrual dysfunction. Since 1980, it is known that PCOS is associated with insulin resistance (IR). The recognition of this association has prompted extensive investigation on the relationship between insulin and gonadal function, and has turned insulin sensitizer agent as the main therapeutic choice. In particular two different polyalcohol myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol have been shown to improve insulin resistance, hyperandrogenism and to induce ovulation in PCOS women. In particular, while data on myo-inositol and restored ovulation were consistent, data on D-chiro-inositol were not . Recently, a comparative study, proposed a D-chiro-inositol paradox in the ovary of PCOS patients hypothesizing that only myo-inositol has a specific ovarian action. In the present study we aim to further study the role played by D-chiro-inositol at ovarian level.
A total of 54 women, aged <40 years and diagnosed with PCOS were enrolled in this study. Patients with insulin resistance and/or hyperglycaemia were excluded from the study. Patients were randomly divided into 5 groups (n=10-12): a placebo group, and 4 groups (A-D) that received 300-600-1200-2400 mg of DCI daily respectively. All treatments were carried out for 8 weeks before follicle stimulating hormone (rFSH) administration.
Total r-FSH units increased significantly in the two groups that received the higher doses of DCI. The number of immature oocytes was significantly increased in the three groups that received the higher doses of DCI. Concurrently, the number of MII oocytes was significantly lower in the D group compared to placebo group. Noteworthy, the number of grade I embryos was significantly reduced by DCI supplementation.
Indeed, increasing DCI dosage progressively worsens oocyte quality and ovarian response.
- PCOS Patient
- Ovarian Response
- PCOS Woman
- Oocyte Quality
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a multifactorial pathology that affects 10% of the women in reproductive age being the main cause of infertility due to menstrual dysfunction[1–3]. Diagnosis is based on three different factors, identified during a consensus meeting sponsored by the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) held in Rotterdam in 2003: (1) oligo-anovulation, (2) hyperandrogenism (clinical or biochemical) and (3) the presence of 12 or more follicles in each ovary measuring 2–9 mm in diameter, and/or an increased ovarian volume (>10 ml)[2, 3]. The identification of two out of three parameters allows to give the diagnosis of PCOS.
Since 1980, it is known that PCOS is associated with insulin resistance (IR). The recognition of this association has prompted extensive investigation on the relationship between insulin and gonadal function . Insulin acts synergistically with luteinizing hormone (LH) to enhance the androgen production of theca cells . Furthermore, it is able to reduce circulating levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), leading to increased levels of free testosterone . It has become clear that this syndrome has major metabolic as well as reproductive morbidities. Although the consensus meeting has decided to exclude IR from the diagnostic criteria, IR affects 50-80% of the patients with PCOS regardless BMI. Accordingly, this association has led to the treatment of PCOS women with insulin sensitizing agents such as troglitazone , inositol [9, 10], metformin  for restoring spontaneous ovulation.
In particular, several lines of evidence suggest that a deficiency of inositol, which is a second messenger of the insulin signaling, may be linked to insulin resistance. Inositol is a polyalcohol classified as insulin sensitizer and existing as nine stereoisomers, two of which are currently used in PCOS treatment: myo-inositol (MI) and D-chiro-inositol (DCI) [9, 13]. Both stereoisomers show an insulin-like action in vivo exerting the function of insulin mediators as inositolphosphoglycans (IPGs) . Indeed, MI is the most abundant form of inositol in humans while DCI is synthetized by an insulin-dependent epimerase that converts MI to DCI. Interestingly, every organ has a specific MI/DCI ratio likely linked to its specific needs (i.e. specific biological processes controlled be each inositol). Indeed, beside the common features, both inositols have specific action. DCI is able to induce glycogen synthesis; in particular, high DCI levels were identified only in glycogen storage tissues. On the other hand, MI plays a crucial role at ovarian level. Recently, Chiu et al. have reported that high concentrations of MI positively correlate with high quality and mature oocytes and a recent review clearly summarized the important role of MI in human reproduction . Furthermore, MI supplementation during IVF protocols has been shown to improve oocyte quality and reduce the number of IU of FSH necessary for ovarian stimulation [17, 18].
Oocyte quality is the main factor influencing the chance of a pregnancy; indeed, poor oocyte quality is a cause of infertility as well as an important obstacle for a successful in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Additional data have also shown that DCI supplementation at the dose of 1,2 g/die has no influence on ovarian response to exogenous FSH . The aim of the present study was to better investigate whether DCI has a role at ovarian level.
A total of 54 women, aged <40 years and diagnosed with PCOS according to Rotterdam criteria, were enrolled in this study. All the subjects were selected among patients undergoing ICSI procedure that was suggested after evaluation of two different sperm samples of the male partner. ICSI patients were selected in order to minimize differences between semen samples. Patients with insulin resistance and/or hyperglycaemia were excluded from the study. In particular, insulin resistance was assessed by calculating the HOMA index, the cut-off defining insulin resistance was 3.2. Concomitantly hyperglycaemia was defied as glucose level > than 140 mg/dl after 2h OGTT Patients were randomly divided into 5 groups (n = 10-12): a placebo group, and 4 groups (A-D) that received 300-600-1200-2400 mg of DCI (Interquim, s.a., Barcelona, Spain) daily respectively. All treatments were carried out for 8 weeks before follicle stimulating hormone (rFSH) administration. The randomization procedure was performed using a computer-based program. The Institutional Ethical Committee approved the protocol, and all patients gave a written informed consent before entering the study.
Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation
All patients underwent pituitary desensitization by subcutaneous (s.c.) administration of the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist (Decapeptyl; Ipsen, Paris, France) from midluteal phase until the day of intramuscular (i.m.) administration of 10,000 IU of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Then, controlled ovarian hyperstimulation was performed in all patients by the administration of recombinant FSH (Gonal-F; Merck-Serono, Geneva, Switzerland). Starting dose was 150 IU per day. Patients were monitored by measuring the plasma concentration of 17β-Estradiol 2 (17β-E2) and the size of follicles on day 5 of the stimulation. The dosage of gonadotropin was adjusted according to the individual response. The 10,000 IU hCG was injected i.m. in all patients when serum 17β-E2 exceeded 200 pg per follicle and at least three follicles with a minimum diameter of 18 mm were found. Cycles were cancelled if E2 levels were >4,000 pg/mL, due to increased risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
According to Italian IVF law, a maximum of three oocytes per patient were injected, while spare mature oocytes were cryopreserved according to protocols described in previous studies . Oocyte and sperm preparation for conventional ICSI procedure have been thoroughly described elsewhere . Concerning ICSI, cumulus and corona radiata cells were immediately removed after retrieval by a short exposure to HEPES-buffered medium (Quinn’s Advantage Hepes Medium; Sage IVF, Trumbull, CT, USA) containing 20 IU/mL hyaluronidase (Sage IVF) and by gentle aspiration in and out of a Pasteur pipette following by mechanical cleaning from the remaining surrounding cumulus cells by aspiration using a denuding pipette (Denuding Flexi-Pet; Cook, Brisbane, Australia) with a 170–130 mm diameter. The denuded oocytes were then assessed for their meiotic maturation status. In preparation for ICSI, oocytes with an extruded first polar body presumably at the metaphase II stage (MII) were selected (in a maximum of three) for the fresh cycle and spare MII oocytes were cryopreserved, if required .
Intramuscular administration of 50 mg daily progesterone in-oil was started on the day of ovum pick-up, and the treatment was performed daily until either a serum pregnancy test result was negative or an embryonic heart beat was sonographically confirmed.
Baseline characteristics and ovum pick-up outcomes were analyzed using One-way ANOVAs. The source of the detected significances was determined by Bonferroni post hoc test. P values less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant.
Baseline characteristics of patients
A (DCI 300mg)
B (DCI 600mg)
C (DCI 1200mg)
D (DCI 2400mg)
No. of patients
36.9 ± 1.5
36.8 ± 1.6
36.9 ± 1.52
36.7 ± 1.57
37.0 ± 1.25
24.4 ± 2.8
25.2 ± 3.5
24.7 ± 3.5
25.1 ± 3.1
25.6 ± 2.9
Duration of infertility (months)
48.2 ± 9.4
49.4 ± 7.6
50.0 ± 7.2
49.9 ± 6.1
48.9 ± 8.8
A (DCI 300 mg)
B (DCI 600mg)
C (DCI 1200mg)
D (DCI 2400mg)
No. Oocytes retrieved
8.99 ± 2.52
9.20 ± 2.46
9.13 ± 2.99
7.83 ± 2.78
7.23 ± 2.77
Total rFSH (IU)
2239.7 ± 181.55
2379.1 ± 353.80
2305.9 ± 150.19
2368.5 ± 235.77*
2983.0 ± 219.80**
17β-E2 levels (pg/ml)
on hGC administration
1429.69 ± 1118.43
1443.43 ± 1087.43
1350.06 ± 513.04
1530.85 ± 433.17
1490.24 ± 253.21 *
11.4 ± 1.2
12.1 ± 0.99
12.5 ± 1.21 *
12.9 ± 1.10 **
13.8 ± 0.87**
No. Of cycles cancelled
In the present study we were able to show that DCI negatively affects oocyte quality. Indeed, increasing DCI dosage progressively worsens oocyte quality and ovarian response in non-obese and non insulin resistant PCOS women. Literature data clearly show that the two inositol stereoisomers have different physiological roles: while DCI is crucial for glycogen synthesis, MI increases glucose cellular uptake . Interestingly, each tissue has its own MI/DCI ratio and the relative amount of each inositol in a certain tissue reflects inositol(s) specific functions. Indeed, high DCI levels (always lower than MI) are present only in glycogen storage tissues (fat, liver and muscle), while very low levels of DCI are characteristic of tissues that have high glucose utilization, likely because they need to “have a high energy status” (brain and heart) . Recently a new manuscript pointed out that one of the causes of poor oocyte quality in PCOS women might be the reduced energy metabolism . Indeed, literature data have shown that in PCOS women, genes involved in the glucose uptake pathway are downregulated at ovarian level . These data are indeed in line with the findings of Carlomagno et al., that in a comparative study (MI vs. DCI) highlighted that only MI has an action at ovarian level; since MI is responsible of glucose cell uptake, likely it improves ovary energy status and therefore, it is able to improve oocyte quality [19, 23]. In vivo, DCI is synthetized by an epimerase that converts MI into DCI and, depending on the specific needs of the two different molecules, each tissue has a typical conversion rate. In particular, it has been shown that the ratio of these two insulin mediators is insulin dependent[25, 26]. Indeed, in subjects with type 2 diabetes, the DCI/MI ratio is reduced and less DCI is synthetized, due to a reduction in the epimerase activity [25, 26]. Unlike other tissues such as muscle and liver, ovary never become insulin resistant [27, 28]. Therefore, it can be speculated that PCOS patients with hyperinsulinemia probably present an enhanced MI to DCI epimerization rate in the ovary that would result in an increased DCI/MI ratio (i.e., overproduction of DCI), and in a MI deficiency. This MI depletion could eventually be responsible for the poor oocyte quality observed in these patients . In addition, the positive effects of MI supplementation [17–19, 30] might be explained by the fact that restoring MI levels will improve ovarian response to FSH; furthermore, since MI is responsible for glucose cell intake, energy status will be restored as well. Nestler et al. in 1999 showed for the first time that administration of DCI (1.2 g/d) in obese PCOS women is able to restore ovulation after 4 weeks of treatment, although no data on menstrual regularity were reported. However, in a second study conducted by the same authors, DCI dosage was doubled (2400 mg/die) and authors were not able to confirm their pervious findings. Our results seems to be in line with the DCI paradox hypothesis . Indeed, increasing DCI dosage progressively negatively influences oocyte and embryo quality. Similar results have been obtained by treating PCOS woman scheduled for IVF with metformin, 500 mg three times per day. Metformin decreased the number of dominant follicles, retrieved oocytes, and MII oocytes, despite increased IU of gonadotropin were administered. Baillargoen et al. showed that metformin increased the insulin-stimulated release of DCI-phosphoglycans; therefore, we could hypothesize that metformin promotes glycogen synthesis and further reduces ovary energy status through DCI phosphoglycans . Based on this evidence, we can speculate on the reason why Nesteler had opposite results in the two trials. In the first study, DCI supplementation restored ovulation probably due to a peripheral action of DCI, allowing to restore epimerase physiological rating into the ovary. In the second trial, the lack of positive effects after 2400mg DCI supplementation was probably due to an overload of DCI (pre-existent high levels of DCI in the ovary and supplementation). In conclusion, we have shown that DCI supplementation reduces oocyte quality; therefore the administration of DCI cannot be considered as an appropriate approach to improve IVF outcomes in PCOS patients.
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
- Taylor AE: Polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 1998, 27: 877–902. ix 10.1016/S0889-8529(05)70045-1PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Revised 2003 consensus on diagnostic criteria and long-term health risks related to polycystic ovary syndrome Fertil Steril 2004, 81: 19–25.Google Scholar
- Revised 2003 consensus on diagnostic criteria and long-term health risks related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Hum Reprod 2004, 19: 41–47.Google Scholar
- Burghen GA, Givens JR, Kitabchi AE: Correlation of hyperandrogenism with hyperinsulinism in polycystic ovarian disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1980, 50: 113–116. 10.1210/jcem-50-1-113PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Baillargeon JP, Carpentier A: Role of insulin in the hyperandrogenemia of lean women with polycystic ovary syndrome and normal insulin sensitivity. Fertil Steril 2007, 88: 886–893. 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2006.12.055PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Baptiste CG, Battista MC, Trottier A, Baillargeon JP: Insulin and hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2010, 122: 42–52. 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2009.12.010PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Ehrmann DA: Insulin-lowering therapeutic modalities for polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 1999, 28: 423–438. viii 10.1016/S0889-8529(05)70078-5PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hasegawa I, Murakawa H, Suzuki M, Yamamoto Y, Kurabayashi T, Tanaka K: Effect of troglitazone on endocrine and ovulatory performance in women with insulin resistance-related polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril 1999, 71: 323–327. 10.1016/S0015-0282(98)00454-3PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Nestler JE, Jakubowicz DJ, Reamer P, Gunn RD, Allan G: Ovulatory and metabolic effects of D-chiro-inositol in the polycystic ovary syndrome. N Engl J Med 1999, 340: 1314–1320. 10.1056/NEJM199904293401703PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Gerli S, Mignosa M, Di Renzo GC: Effects of inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2003, 7: 151–159.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ng EH, Wat NM, Ho PC: Effects of metformin on ovulation rate, hormonal and metabolic profiles in women with clomiphene-resistant polycystic ovaries: a randomized, double-blinded placebo-controlled trial. Hum Reprod 2001, 16: 1625–1631. 10.1093/humrep/16.8.1625PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Huang LC, Fonteles MC, Houston DB, Zhang C, Larner J: Chiroinositol deficiency and insulin resistance. III. Acute glycogenic and hypoglycemic effects of two inositol phosphoglycan insulin mediators in normal and streptozotocin-diabetic rats in vivo. Endocrinology 1993, 132: 652–657. 10.1210/en.132.2.652PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Papaleo E, Unfer V, Baillargeon JP, De Santis L, Fusi F, Brigante C, Marelli G, Cino I, Redaelli A, Ferrari A: Myo-inositol in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a novel method for ovulation induction. Gynecol Endocrinol 2007, 23: 700–703. 10.1080/09513590701672405PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Larner J: D-chiro-inositol–its functional role in insulin action and its deficit in insulin resistance. Int J Exp Diabetes Res 2002, 3: 47–60. 10.1080/15604280212528PubMed CentralPubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Chiu TT, Rogers MS, Law EL, Briton-Jones CM, Cheung LP, Haines CJ: Follicular fluid and serum concentrations of myo-inositol in patients undergoing IVF: relationship with oocyte quality. Hum Reprod 2002, 17: 1591–1596. 10.1093/humrep/17.6.1591PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Papaleo E, Unfer V, Baillargeon JP, Chiu TT: Contribution of myo-inositol to reproduction. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2009, 147: 120–123. 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2009.09.008PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Papaleo E, Unfer V, Baillargeon JP, Fusi F, Occhi F, De Santis L: Myo-inositol may improve oocyte quality in intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles. A prospective, controlled, randomized trial. Fertil Steril 2009, 91: 1750–1754. 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.01.088PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Raffone E, Rizzo P, Benedetto V: Insulin sensitiser agents alone and in co-treatment with r-FSH for ovulation induction in PCOS women. Gynecol Endocrinol 2010, 26: 275–280. 10.3109/09513590903366996PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Unfer V, Carlomagno G, Rizzo P, Raffone E, Roseff S: Myo-inositol rather than D-chiro-inositol is able to improve oocyte quality in intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles. A prospective, controlled, randomized trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2011, 15: 452–457.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Borini A, Sciajno R, Bianchi V, Sereni E, Flamigni C, Coticchio G: Clinical outcome of oocyte cryopreservation after slow cooling with a protocol utilizing a high sucrose concentration. Hum Reprod 2006, 21: 512–517.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Van de Velde H, Nagy ZP, Joris H, De Vos A, Van Steirteghem AC: Effects of different hyaluronidase concentrations and mechanical procedures for cumulus cell removal on the outcome of intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Hum Reprod 1997, 12: 2246–2250. 10.1093/humrep/12.10.2246PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- De Santis L, Cino I, Rabellotti E, Papaleo E, Calzi F, Fusi FM, Brigante C, Ferrari A: Oocyte cryopreservation: clinical outcome of slow-cooling protocols differing in sucrose concentration. Reprod Biomed Online 2007, 14: 57–63. 10.1016/S1472-6483(10)60764-XPubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Arya BK, Haq AU, Chaudhury K: Oocyte quality reflected by follicular fluid analysis in poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A hypothesis based on intermediates of energy metabolism. Med Hypotheses 2012, 78: 475–478. 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.009PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Ma X, Fan L, Meng Y, Hou Z, Mao YD, Wang W, Ding W, Liu JY: Proteomic analysis of human ovaries from normal and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Mol Hum Reprod 2007, 13: 527–535. 10.1093/molehr/gam036PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Larner J, Craig JW: Urinary myo-inositol-to-chiro-inositol ratios and insulin resistance. Diabetes Care 1996, 19: 76–78.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Asplin I, Galasko G, Larner J: chiro-inositol deficiency and insulin resistance: a comparison of the chiro-inositol- and the myo-inositol-containing insulin mediators isolated from urine, hemodialysate, and muscle of control and type II diabetic subjects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1993, 90: 5924–5928. 10.1073/pnas.90.13.5924PubMed CentralPubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Harwood K, Vuguin P, DiMartino-Nardi J: Current approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome in youth. Horm Res 2007, 68: 209–217.PubMed CentralPubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Matalliotakis I, Kourtis A, Koukoura O, Panidis D: Polycystic ovary syndrome: etiology and pathogenesis. Arch Gynecol Obstet 2006, 274: 187–197. 10.1007/s00404-006-0171-xPubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Carlomagno G, Unfer V, Roseff S: The D-chiro-inositol paradox in the ovary. Fertil Steril 2011, 95: 2515–2516. 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.05.027PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Ciotta L, Stracquadanio M, Pagano I, Carbonaro A, Palumbo M, Gulino F: Effects of myo-inositol supplementation on oocyte's quality in PCOS patients: a double blind trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2011, 15: 509–514.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Cheang KI, Baillargeon JP, Essah PA, Ostlund RE, Apridonize T, Islam L, Nestler JE: Insulin-stimulated release of D-chiro-inositol-containing inositolphosphoglycan mediator correlates with insulin sensitivity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Metabolism 2008, 57: 1390–1397. 10.1016/j.metabol.2008.05.008PubMed CentralPubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Palomba S, Falbo A, Di Cello A, Cappiello F, Tolino A, Zullo F: Does metformin affect the ovarian response to gonadotropins for in vitro fertilization treatment in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome and reduced ovarian reserve? A randomized controlled trial. Fertil Steril 2011, 96: 1128–1133. 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.08.020PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Baillargeon JP, Iuorno MJ, Jakubowicz DJ, Apridonidze T, He N, Nestler JE: Metformin therapy increases insulin-stimulated release of D-chiro-inositol-containing inositolphosphoglycan mediator in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2004, 89: 242–249. 10.1210/jc.2003-030437PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar