A majority of common metabolic diseases can result in excessive lipolysis, leading to elevated levels of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) in the body fluids. In females, increased NEFA levels in the follicular fluid markedly alter the functions of intrafollicular cells such as granulosa cells (GCs) and oocytes. Therefore, elevated levels of NEFAs have been suggested to be a significant player of subfertility in females of both human and economically important animal species such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, pig, chicken, and dog. However, the effects imposed by saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (SFAs and UFAs) on ovarian follicles are controversial. The present review emphasizes that SFAs induce apoptosis in granulosa and cumulus cells of ovarian follicles in different species. They further could adversely affect oocyte maturation and developmental competence. Many types of UFAs affect steroidogenesis and proliferation processes and could be detrimental for follicular cells, especially when at elevated concentrations. Interestingly, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) appear to contribute to the etiology of the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) as they were found to induce the transcription and translation of the androgenic transcription factor SOX9 while downregulating its estrogenic counterpart FOXL2 in GCs. Overall, this review presents our revised understanding of the effects of different fatty acids on the female reproductive success, which may allow other researchers and clinicians to investigate the mechanisms for treating metabolic stress-induced female infertility.
Keywords: Granulosa cells Metabolic diseases NEFAs Oocyte Ovary