The effects of adult lifestyle and environmental chemicals are important factors affecting the fertility of men and women. Many studies have shown that nutritional and hormonal status during fetal development is decisive for long-term control of energy metabolism. Obesity, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and hypertension may take root during early development, throughout gestation and lactation, as stated in the “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease” (DOHaD) hypothesis. Recent data demonstrated that adult lifestyle factors can also impact the fertility of offspring. Among these factors, nutrition plays a major role. In humans, links between birthweight and fertility have been established, but little data on the relationship between maternal nutrition and fertility of offspring are yet available. In animals, studies have shown that both maternal undernutrition and maternal overnutrition can affect the reproductive function of offspring. Maternal nutrition can influence the development of the fetal reproductive system at all stages of development. Indeed, maternal body composition before conception may influence oocyte maturation. Preimplantation embryos are sensitive to environmental conditions that can affect future growth and developmental potential. Furthermore, embryogenesis, cellular differentiation, placentation and organ maturation can be affected by a wide range of mechanisms involved in metabolic programming. Maternal nutrition may affect circular and local concentrations of endogenous hormones that are essential during fetal development and may also affect oxidative balance with consequences on oocyte maturation, follicular steroidogenesis, implantation, embryo cell function and further development. Various exposures to altered maternal nutrition are associated with epigenetic modifications in the offspring, inducing long-term changes in gene expression, potentially leading to disease in later life and infertility. Finally, micronutrient unbalance, alcohol and tobacco exposure during gestation are known to have detrimental effects on offspring development and further studies are required to establish links with fertility. Whereas the role of the maternal environment has been so far mostly studied, it now becomes clearly evident from very recent work that metabolic effects can also be mediated through the paternal gametes.
Keywords: Maternal nutrition, fetal development, energy metabolism, reproductive function, offspring, maternal environment