Lipids and oocyte developmental competence: The role of fatty acids and β-oxidation

Kylie R. Dunning, Darryl L. Russell, Rebecca L. Robker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

177 Citations (Scopus)


Metabolism and ATP levels within the oocyte and adjacent cumulus cells are associated with quality of oocyte and optimal development of a healthy embryo. Lipid metabolism provides a potent source of energy and its importance during oocyte maturation is being increasingly recognised. The triglyceride and fatty acid composition of ovarian follicular fluid has been characterised for many species and is influenced by nutritional status (i.e. dietary fat, fasting, obesity and season) as well as lactation in cows. Lipid in oocytes is a primarily triglyceride of specific fatty acids which differ by species, stored in distinct droplet organelles that re-localise during oocyte maturation. The presence of lipids, particularly saturated vs unsaturated fatty acids, in in vitro maturation systems affects oocyte lipid content as well as developmental competence. Triglycerides are metabolised by lipases that have been localised to cumulus cells as well as oocytes. Fatty acids generated by lipolysis are further metabolised by β-oxidation in mitochondria for the production of ATP. β-oxidation is induced in cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) by the LH surge, and pharmacological inhibition of β-oxidation impairs oocyte maturation and embryo development. Promoting β-oxidation with L-carnitine improves embryo development in many species. Thus, fatty acid metabolism in the mammalian COC is regulated by maternal physiological and in vitro environmental conditions; and is important for oocyte developmental competence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R15-R27
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

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