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Amino acids are now recognised as having multiple cellular functions in addition to their traditional role as constituents of proteins. This is well-illustrated in the early mammalian embryo where amino acids are now known to be involved in intermediary metabolism, as energy substrates, in signal transduction, osmoregulation and as intermediaries in numerous pathways which involve nitrogen metabolism, e.g., the biosynthesis of purines, pyrimidines, creatine and glutathione. The amino acid derivative S-adenosylmethionine has emerged as a universal methylating agent with a fundamental role in epigenetic regulation. Amino acids are now added routinely to preimplantation embryo culture media. This review examines the routes by which amino acids are supplied to the early embryo, focusing on the role of the oviduct epithelium, followed by an outline of their general fate and function within the embryo. Functions specific to individual amino acids are then considered. The importance of amino acids during the preimplantation period for maternal health and that of the conceptus long term, which has come from the developmental origins of health and disease concept of David Barker, is discussed and the review concludes by considering the potential utility of amino acid profiles as diagnostic of embryo health.


Henry J Leese, Paul J McKeegan, Roger G Sturmey. Amino Acids and the Early Mammalian Embryo: Origin, Fate, Function and Life-Long Legacy. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021 Sep 19;18(18)

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PMID: 34574797

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