Mitochondria are the key regulators of multiple vital cellular processes, including apoptosis, calcium homeostasis, and the generation of ATP via the metabolic pathway known as oxidative phosphorylation. Unlike other cellular organelles, mitochondria contain one or more copies of their own genome (mtDNA). The mtDNA encodes a total of 13 genes with critical functions in cellular metabolism. The energy required to support the normal progress of preimplantation embryo development is provided in the form of ATP generated by the mitochondria. It has been suggested that cellular bioenergetic capacity and suboptimal levels of mitochondria-generated ATP could contribute to a variety of embryo developmental defects, and therefore adversely affect in vitro fertilization success rates. During this review, we discuss the role of mitochondria and their genome during oogenesis and early embryo development. We also assess whether analysis of mitochondria and their genome could be used as biomarkers to determine oocyte quality and embryo viability.
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