Developmental energetics: Energy expenditure, budgets and metabolism during animal embryogenesis

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2023 Mar 30;138:83-93. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2022.03.009. Epub 2022 Mar 19.


Developing embryos are metabolically active, open systems that constantly exchange matter and energy with their environment. They function out of thermodynamic equilibrium and continuously use metabolic pathways to obtain energy from maternal nutrients, in order to fulfill the energetic requirements of growth and development. While an increasing number of studies highlight the role of metabolism in different developmental contexts, the physicochemical basis of embryogenesis, or how cellular processes use energy and matter to act together and transform a zygote into an adult organism, remains unknown. As we obtain a better understanding of metabolism, and benefit from current technology development, it is a promising time to revisit the energetic cost of development and how energetic principles may govern embryogenesis. Here, we review recent advances in methodology to measure and infer energetic parameters in developing embryos. We highlight a potential common pattern in embryonic energy expenditure and metabolic strategy across animal embryogenesis, and discuss challenges and open questions in developmental energetics.

Keywords: Embryogenesis; Energetic constraints; Energetic costs; Energy dissipation; Energy expenditure; Evolution; Metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Energy Metabolism*