Indexed on: 08 Mar '12Published on: 08 Mar '12Published in: Reproduction, fertility, and development
Growing evidence suggests that endogenous and exogenous fatty acids play diverse roles in developing mammalian oocytes and early embryos. In this review, we describe some of the regulatory roles of fatty acids in early development, in addition to their metabolic functions. We focus initially on the provision of individual fatty acids, and then discuss how these might affect metabolism, oxidative stress, membrane composition, cell signalling events and gene expression. We propose that ongoing research should focus on physiologically relevant ratios and combinations of fatty acids, rather than isolated individual fatty acids, as their combined roles are both subtle and complex. Changing the ratio of specific fatty acids in the diet of animal models, and in vitro culture medium can cause significant dysregulation of cellular processes and development, an issue that extends to human fertility.