Animal Reproduction (AR)
Animal Reproduction (AR)
Thematic Section: 36th Annual Meeting of the Association of Embryo Technology in Europe (AETE)

Defining the male contribution to embryo quality and offspring health in assisted reproduction in farm animals

Hannah Louise Morgan; Nader Eid; Afsaneh Khoshkerdar; Adam John Watkins

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Abstract: Assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination have delivered significant benefits for farm animal reproduction. However, as with humans, assisted reproduction in livestock requires the manipulation of the gametes and preimplantation embryo. The significance of this ‘periconception’ period is that it represents the transition from parental genome regulation to that of the newly formed embryo. Environmental perturbations during these early developmental stages can result in persistent changes in embryonic gene expression, fetal organ development and ultimately the long-term health of the offspring. While associations between maternal health and offspring wellbeing are well-defined, the significance of paternal health for the quality of his semen and the post-conception development of his offspring have largely been overlooked. Human and animal model studies have identified sperm epigenetic status (DNA methylation levels, histone modifications and RNA profiles) and seminal plasma-mediated maternal uterine immunological, inflammatory and vascular responses as the two central mechanisms capable of linking paternal health and post-fertilisation development. However, there is a significant knowledge gap about the father’s contribution to the long-term health of his offspring, especially with regard to farm animals. Such insights are essential to ensure the safety of widely used assisted reproductive practices and to gain better understanding of the role of paternal health for the well-being of his offspring. In this article, we will outline the impact of male health on semen quality (both sperm and seminal plasma), reproductive fitness and post-fertilisation offspring development and explore the mechanisms underlying the paternal programming of offspring health in farm animals.


assisted reproductive technologies, fetal programming, semen quality


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