INSERM U. 135 Hormones Gènes et Reproduction and Laboratoire d'Hormonologie et Biologie Moléculaire, Hôpital Bicêtre, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, et Institut Fédératif de Recherche IFR 21, 94275 Le Kremlin Bicêtre, France.
A single natural loss of function mutation of the follicle stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR) has been described to date. Present in the Finnish population it markedly impairs receptor function, blocking follicle development at the primary stage and presenting as primary amenorrhea with atrophic ovaries. When Western European women with this phenotype were examined for FSHR mutations the result was negative, suggesting that other etiologies corresponding to this clinical pattern are markedly more frequent. We now describe a novel phenotype related to mutations provoking a partial loss of function of the FSHR. A woman with secondary amenorrhea had very high plasma gonadotropin concentrations (especially FSH), contrasting with normal sized ovaries and antral follicles up to 5 mm at ultrasonography. Histological and immunohistochemical examination of the ovaries showed normal follicular development up to the small antral stage and a disruption at further stages. The patient was found to carry compound heterozygotic mutations of the FSHR gene: Ile160Thr and Arg573Cys substitutions located, respectively, in the extracellular domain and in the third intracellular loop of the receptor. The mutated receptors, when expressed in COS-7 cells, showed partial functional impairment, consistent with the clinical and histological observations: the first mutation impaired cell surface expression and the second altered signal transduction of the receptor. This observation suggests that a limited FSH effect is sufficient to promote follicular growth up to the small antral stage. Further development necessitates strong FSH stimulation. The contrast between very high FSH levels and normal sized ovaries with antral follicles may thus be characteristic of such patients.