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Endogenous biosynthesis of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) regulates fish oocyte maturation by promoting pregnenolone production

Li Y, Li X, Ye D, Zhang R, Liu C, He M, Wang H, Hu W, Sun Y
Zool Res. 2024 Jan 18;45(1):176-188. doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2023.032
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), particularly docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA), play crucial roles in the reproductive health of vertebrates, including humans. Nevertheless, the underlying mechanism related to this phenomenon remains largely unknown. In this study, we employed two zebrafish genetic models, i.e., elovl2 -/- mutant as an endogenous DHA-deficient model and fat1 (omega-3 desaturase encoding gene) transgenic zebrafish as an endogenous DHA-rich model, to investigate the effects of DHA on oocyte maturation and quality. Results show that the elovl2 -/- mutants had much lower fecundity and poorer oocyte quality than the wild-type controls, while the fat1 zebrafish had higher fecundity and better oocyte quality than wild-type controls. DHA deficiency in elovl2 -/- embryos led to defects in egg activation, poor microtubule stability, and reduced pregnenolone levels. Further study revealed that DHA promoted pregnenolone synthesis by enhancing transcription of cyp11a1, which encodes the cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme, thereby stabilizing microtubule assembly during oogenesis. In turn, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis was enhanced by DHA. In conclusion, using two unique genetic models, our findings demonstrate that endogenously synthesized DHA promotes oocyte maturation and quality by promoting pregnenolone production via transcriptional regulation of cyp11a1.
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