Amino acids are essential components of media utilized to culture fertilized human eggs to the blastocyst stage in vitro. Use of such media has led to a significant increase in the proportion of embryos that implant upon transfer to the uterus and to a decrease in the number that need to be transferred to achieve pregnancy. Little is known about the mechanisms by which amino acids foster development of healthy human blastocysts. Indications are, however, that many of these mechanisms are the same in human and mouse embryos. Both essential and nonessential amino acid transport benefit preimplantation mouse embryo development, albeit at different stages. Nonessential amino acid transport improves development primarily during cleavage, whereas essential amino acid transport supports development of more viable embryos, especially subsequent to the eight-cell stage. This review discusses likely mechanisms for these beneficial effects.
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