Identification of a unique epigenetic profile in women with diminished ovarian reserve

Ovarian follicle cells from women with diminished ovarian reserve have a distinctive epigenetic profile compared with those of women who have normal or high ovarian reserve.

VOLUME 115, ISSUE 3, P732-741, MARCH 01, 2021


Kristina W. Olsen, M.Sc., Ph.D., Juan Castillo-Fernandez, Ph.D., Andrew Cho Chan, M.Sc., Nina la Cour Freiesleben, Ph.D., Anne Zedeler, Ph.D., Mona Bungum, Ph.D., Alexia Cardona, Ph.D., John R.B. Perry, Ph.D., Sven O. Skouby, D.M.Sc., Eva R. Hoffmann, Ph.D., Gavin Kelsey, Ph.D., Marie Louise Grøndahl, D.M.Sc.



To investigate whether epigenetic profiles of mural granulosa cells (MGC) and leukocytes from women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) differ from those of women with normal or high ovarian reserve.


Prospectively collected material from a multicenter cohort of women undergoing fertility treatment.


Private and university-based facilities for clinical services and research.


One hundred and nineteen women of various ages and ovarian reserve status (antimüllerian hormone level) who provided blood samples and MGC.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

Measures of epigenetic aging rates from whole-genome methylation array data: DNA methylation variability, age acceleration, DNA methylation telomere length estimator (DNAmTL), and accumulation of epimutations.


Comparison of DOR or high ovarian reserve samples to controls (normal ovarian reserve) showed differential methylation variability between DOR and normal samples at 4,199 CpGs in MGC, and 447 between high and normal (false-discovery rate < 0.05). Variable sites in MGC from DOR were enriched in regions marked with the repressive histone modification H3K27me3, and also included genes involved in folliculogenesis, such as insulin growth factor 2 (IGF2) and antimüllerian hormone (AMH). Regardless of ovarian reserve, very few signals were detected in leukocytes, and no overlaps with those in MGC were found. Furthermore, we found a higher number of epimutations in MGC from women with DOR (Kruskal-Wallis test, difference in mean = 3,485).


The somatic cells of human ovarian follicles have a distinctive epigenetic profile in women with DOR. A high frequency of epimutations suggests premature aging. Ovarian reserve status was not reflected in the leukocyte epigenetic profile.