The preimplantation embryo is sensitive to its environment and, despite having some plasticity to adapt, environmental perturbations can impair embryo development, metabolic homeostasis, fetal and placental development, and offspring health. This study used an in vitro model of embryo culture with increasing mitochondrial inhibition to directly establish the effect of impaired mitochondrial function on embryonic, fetal, and placental development. Culture in the absence of the carbohydrate pyruvate significantly increased blastocyst glucose oxidation via glycolysis to maintain normal levels of ATP and tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle activity. This culture resulted in a significant reduction in blastocyst development, trophectoderm cell number, and respiration rate but, importantly, did not impair implantation rates or fetal and placental development. In contrast, increasing concentrations of the mitochondrial inhibitor amino-oxyacetate (AOA) impaired glycolysis, TCA cycle activity, respiration rate, and ATP production; incrementally reduced blastocyst development; and decreased blastocyst inner cell mass and trophectoderm cell numbers. Importantly, AOA did not affect implantation rates; however, 5 μM AOA significantly reduced placental growth but not fetal growth, increasing the fetal:placental weight ratio. Furthermore, 50 μM AOA significantly reduced both placental and fetal growth but not the fetal:placental weight ratio. Hence, this study demonstrates that a threshold of mitochondrial function is required for normal development, and despite developmental plasticity of the embryo, impaired mitochondrial function in the embryo affects subsequent fetal and placental growth. These results highlight the importance of mitochondrial function in regulating pre- and postimplantation development; however, the effect on offspring health remains unknown.
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Vol. 84 • No. 3