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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Feb;294(2):E425-34. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Maternal supply of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids alter mechanisms involved in oocyte and early embryo development in the mouse.

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  • 1Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia 5005.


Despite the well-known benefits of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation on human health, relatively little is known about the effect of n-3 PUFA intake on fertility. More specifically, the aim of this study was to determine how oocyte and preimplantation embryo development might be influenced by n-3 PUFA supply and to understand the possible mechanisms underlying these effects. Adult female mice were fed a control diet or a diet relatively high in the long-chain n-3 PUFAs for 4 wk, and ovulated oocytes or zygotes were collected after gonadotropin stimulation. Oocytes were examined for mitochondrial parameters (active mitochondrial distribution, mitochondrial calcium and membrane potential) and oxidative stress, and embryo developmental ability was assessed at the blastocyst stage following 1) in vitro fertilization (IVF) or 2) culture of in vivo-derived zygotes. This study demonstrated that exposure of the oocyte during maturation in the ovary to an environment high in n-3 PUFA resulted in altered mitochondrial distribution and calcium levels and increased production of reactive oxygen species. Despite normal fertilization and development in vitro following IVF, the exposure of oocytes to an environment high in n-3 PUFA during in vivo fertilization adversely affected the morphological appearance of the embryo and decreased developmental ability to the blastocyst stage. This study suggests that high maternal dietary n-3 PUFA exposure periconception reduces normal embryo development in the mouse and is associated with perturbed mitochondrial metabolism, raising questions regarding supplementation with n-3 PUFAs during this period of time.

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