Effects of PUFAs on animal reproduction: male and female performances and endocrine mechanisms

  • Margherita Maranesi
  • Cesare Castellini
  • Cecilia Dall’Aglio
  • Linda Petrucci
  • Simona Mattioli
  • Cristiano Boiti
  • Massimo Zerani


Adequate fat diet supplementation shows variable positive effects in farm animal breeding. Omega-3 and n-6 PUFAs are able to modulate several reproductive effectors: the luteolytic PGF2α, the luteotropic PGE2, the nuclear receptor PPARG, and steroids such as E2 and P4. PUFA supplementation favours fertility, onset of estrus, embryo survival, and also parturition by reducing preterm labour risk. These effects are likely mediated by the balance modulation of PGF2α and PGE2 productions, the syntheses of E2 and P4, and the activation of PPARG. As regards to male fertility, the effects of n-3 or n-6 PUFA supplementation at high concentrations in the diet are relatively unknown. PUFAs confer to the spermatozoa plasma membrane the fluidity it needs to achieve fertilization and seem to stimulate the Leydig cell production of testosterone through the regulation of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, a transport protein that regulates cholesterol transfer within the mitochondria, which is the rate-limiting step in the production of steroid hormones. As regards to female fertility, PUFA supplementation mediates a broad range of actions in reproductive processes involving pregnancy establishment, uterine endocrinology, and preterm birth. The perfectly composed follicular environment shapes oocyte quality and thus female fertility. Since both oocytes and embryos are vulnerable to microenvironment changes, nutritional alterations and FA unavailability can lead to their defects. The aim of the present review is to examine the effects of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs on male and female reproductive performances and the correlated endocrine mechanisms.


Fatty acids PPARs Prostaglandins Reproduction Steroids 



3-Beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase


15-Deoxy delta12,14 prostaglandin J2


Arachidonic acid


Alpha linolenic acid


B-cell lymphoma 2


Corpora lutea


Docosahexaenoic acid


Docosapentaenoic acid




Eicosapentaenoic acid


Fatty acid


Fatty acids desaturase


Fish oil


Gamma-linolenic acid


Hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid


Inflammatory bowel disease




Linoleic acid


Long-chain fatty acids


Long chain PUFA








Nuclear factor






Prostaglandin E2-9-ketoreductase


Pregnant mare serum gonadotropin


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor


Prostaglandin E synthase


Prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase


Polyunsaturated fatty acid


Reactive oxygen species


Secoisolariciresinol diglycoside


Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein


Tumor necrosis factor


Tumor protein 53


Vaccenic acid



This study was partially funded by the BC Red-Water Foundation (Perugia, Italy), PFZM Kitchenbrown Trust (Matelica, Italy), and by “Fondazione Cassa Risparmio di Perugia” (Project Number: 2015.0373.021). The authors gratefully acknowledge the revision of the English text by Sheila Beatty.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Medicina VeterinariaUniversità degli Studi di PerugiaPerugiaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze agrarie, alimentari ed ambientaliUniversità degli Studi di PerugiaPerugiaItaly

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