Amino acids in reproductive nutrition and health

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Amino acids are not only the building blocks of proteins, an indispensable component of cells, but also play versatile roles in regulating cell metabolism, proliferation, differentiation and growth by themselves or through their derivatives. At the whole body level, the bioavailability and metabolism of amino acids, interacting with other macronutrients, is critical for the physiological processes of reproduction including gametogenesis, fertilization, implantation, placentation, fetal growth and development. In fertilization and early pregnancy, histotroph in oviductal and uterine secretions provides nutrients and microenvironment for conceptus (embryo and extraembryonic membranes) development. These nutrients include select amino acids in histotroph (arginine, leucine and glutamine of particular interest) that stimulate conceptus growth and development, as well as interactions between maternal uterus and the conceptus, thus impacting maintenance of pregnancy, placental growth, development and functions, fetal growth and development, and consequential pregnancy outcomes. Gestational protein undernutrition causes fetal growth restriction and predisposes cardiovascular, metabolic diseases and others in offspring via multiple mechanisms, whereas the supplementation of glycine, leucine and taurine during pregnancy partially rescues growth restriction and beneficially modulates fetal programming. Thus, amino acids are essential for the fertility of humans and all animals.

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