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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with an increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes. Recent evidence suggests that variation in the gene encoding the cysteine protease calpain-10 influences susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. The present study was undertaken to determine whether variation in this gene is associated with quantitative traits pertinent to the pathogenesis of PCOS and diabetes. We studied 212 women with PCOS (124 white of European ancestry, 57 African-American, 13 Hispanic, 13 Asian-American, and 5 Middle-Eastern). Each subject was genotyped for 3 DNA polymorphisms in the calpain-10 gene associated with type 2 diabetes (SNP-43, -19, and -63). The white and African-American subjects were examined for association of these polymorphisms with phenotypic features of PCOS and type 2 diabetes. There were not enough individuals in the other groups for similar genotype/phenotype analyses. Nineteen (9%) of the 212 women with PCOS were diabetic and were not included in the genotype/phenotype analyses. Twelve (63%) of these subjects were African-American. Phenotypic traits in nondiabetic white probands did not differ whether analyzed for each individual SNP (SNP-43, -19, -63) or haplotype combination. Nor was there association of SNP-43, -19, or -63 with any of the phenotypic features of type 2 diabetes or PCOS in nondiabetic African-Americans. However, nondiabetic African-Americans with the 112/121-haplotype combination had significantly higher insulin levels, in response to an oral glucose challenge, as reflected in the area under the insulin curve (257,021 +/- 95,384 vs. 136,240 +/- 11,468 pmol/min; P = 0.03), compared with those with other haplotypes. This finding was particularly notable because the 112/121 subjects were less obese. The difference between groups in area under the insulin response curve remained significant (P = 0.002 by analysis of covariance) after adjustment for body mass index. In addition to its association with insulin levels in African-Americans, the 112/121-haplotype combination was associated with an approximate 2-fold increase in risk of PCOS in both African-Americans and whites.