Polyunsaturated Fatty Biosynthesis and Metabolism in Reproductive Tissues

Wathes, D C and Cheng, Z R (2018) Polyunsaturated Fatty Biosynthesis and Metabolism in Reproductive Tissues. In: Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Metabolism. Elsevier, pp. 157-180.

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Abstract

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have multiple functions that can influence reproduction as precursors to eicosanoids, regulators of steroid biosynthesis, inflammatory mediators, and by supplying energy. The PUFA composition of cell membranes also affects fluidity and signaling pathways. The concentration of both n-3 and n-6 PUFAs in the reproductive tract generally reflects dietary intakes but different tissues, such as the placenta and spermatozoa also have selective uptake mechanisms. The fetus requires a supply of preformed long chain (LC) PUFAs, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is crucial for neural development. DHA is also essential to male fertility, through effects on sperm motility and the acrosome reaction. This, however, makes sperm particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage. Prostaglandin (PG) biosynthesis is a key function of the uterus, regulating luteolysis, establishment of pregnancy, parturition and uterine involution. Availability of different PUFAs influences the PGE:PGF ratio of 2-series PGs synthesised as well as the synthesis of the less active 1- and 3-series PGs. Cows fed diets high in n-6 PUFAs produce more PGF2α, potentially benefiting postpartum uterine health. Supplementary n-3 PUFA, generally fish oil, is advocated to reduce the risk of preterm labor in pregnant women. Attempts to improve reproductive health and fertility through dietary interventions are, however, inconsistent. Potential reasons for this include variations in the amounts and ratios of different PUFAs in relevant tissues at both the start of the trials and in the supplements provided, duration of treatment and genotype.