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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Nov 27;364(1534):3351-61. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0184.

Nutritional effects on oocyte and embryo development in mammals: implications for reproductive efficiency and environmental sustainability.

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The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9PS, UK.


The environment in which a breeding female lives prior to conception and during the early stages of her pregnancy has striking effects on oocytes developing in the ovarian follicle and on early embryos in the reproductive tract. Of the various environmental factors known to affect oocyte and embryo development, altered nutrition during this critical period has been particularly well studied. Alterations in the quantity of food consumed or the composition of the diet imposed solely during the pre-mating period affect oocyte maturity, blastocyst yield, prenatal survival and the number of offspring born alive. Importantly, nutrition at this time also affects the quality of embryos and resultant offspring, with increasing evidence from a variety of species showing that peri-conception nutrition can alter behaviour, cardiovascular function and reproductive function throughout post-natal life. In livestock species, it is important to devise nutritional strategies that improve reproductive efficiency and the quality of offspring but that do not add to the environmental footprint of the production system and which recognize likely changes in feedstuff availability arising from predicted changes in climate.

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