Bovine embryo elongation is altered due to maternal fatty acid supplementation

Biol Reprod. 2018 Sep 1;99(3):600-610. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioy084.


The pre-implantation period is prone to embryonic losses in bovine. Embryo-maternal communication is crucial to support embryo development. Thereby, factors of the uterine fluid (UF) are of specific importance. The maternal diet can affect the UF composition. Since omega 3 fatty acids (omega 3 FA) are considered to be beneficial for reproduction, we investigated if dietary omega 3 FA affected factors in the UF related to embryo elongation. Angus heifers (n = 37) were supplemented with either 450 g of rumen-protected fish oil (omega 3 FA) or sunflower oil (omega 6 FA) for a period of 8 weeks. Following cycle synchronization and artificial insemination, the uteri were flushed post mortem to recover the embryos on day 15 of pregnancy. The UF and tissue samples of endometrium and corpus luteum (CL) were collected. Strikingly, the embryo elongation in the omega 3 group was enhanced compared to the omega 6 group. No differences were observed in uterine prostaglandins, even though the endometrial concentration of their precursor arachidonic acid was reduced in omega 3 compared to omega 6 heifers. The dietary FA neither led to differential expression of target genes in endometrium nor CL nor to a differential abundance of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, cortisol or amino acids in the UF. Interestingly, the omega 3 group displayed a higher plasma progesterone concentration during luteal growth than the omega 6 group, possibly promoting embryo elongation. Further research should include an ovarian perspective to understand the functional link between dietary omega 3 FA and reproductive outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diet
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Endometrium / drug effects
  • Endometrium / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Ovary / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostaglandins / metabolism
  • Uterus / drug effects
  • Uterus / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Prostaglandins