The effect of CAG repeats length on differences in hirsutism among healthy Israeli women of different ethnicities

Naomi Weintrob, Ori Eyal, Meital Slakman, Anat Segev Becker, Galit Israeli, Ofra Kalter-Leibovici, Shay Ben-Shachar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Variations in the degree of hirsutism among women of different ethnic backgrounds may stem from multiple etiologies. Shorter length of the polymorphic CAG repeats of the androgen receptor (AR) gene may be associated with increased activity of the receptor leading to hirsutism. We hypothesized that there are ethnic differences in the degree of hirsutism that is unrelated to androgen levels among Israeli women, and that the CAG repeats length may contribute to these differences. Anti-androgenic therapies, such as spironolactone, could be suggested if a shorter CAG repeats length is found to affect the difference in the degree of hirsutism between the ethnic groups. Methods Healthy Israeli Jewish women aged 18-45 years of Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi origin were invited to participate. Hirsutism was assessed using the simplified Ferriman-Gallwey (sFG) score, and serum total testosterone levels were measured as well. The CAG repeats length was determined by PCR. Methylation-sensitive methods were used to detect the fractional activity of each allele, and the weighted mean was calculated for the CAG repeats length. Results One-hundred and eight women were recruited (49 Ashkenazi and 59 non-Ashkenazi). The Ashkenazi women had a significantly lower degree of hirsutism (P<0.01), lower mean BMI (P = 0.003), total testosterone levels (P = 0.017), and longer weighted bi-allelic CAG repeats mean (P = 0.015) compared to non-Ashkenazi women. For the group as a whole, there was a significant negative correlation between the number of CAG repeats in the AR gene and the sFG score, while the number of repeats was not related to testosterone levels. Stepwise logistic regression revealed that ethnic origin and the CAG repeats length were the strongest factors affecting hirsutism (P<0.001, P = 0.03, respectively). Conclusions There is a significant difference in the degree of hirsutism between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi women in Israel that is partially explained by CAG repeats length.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0195046
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


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