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Fatty Acids Play An Important Role In Embryonic Development

Update Date: Dec 13, 2013 09:46 AM EST

Importance of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism in the process of tissue types arising in the correct position of the developing embryo has been more clearly described in a recent study.

Sources of energy, fatty acids are the building materials of cellular membranes. These also act as signals for sending messages between cells. To activate free fatty acids to participate in the cellular processes, enzymes are required. These enzymes are called acyl-CoA synthetases or simply ACS.

ACSL4, a member of ACS enzymes family does the job of activating special fatty acids that are called polyunsaturated fatty acids. Mutations in ACSL4 is linked to human developmental disorders that includes a type of mental retardation that is linked to X chromosome. ACLS4 enzymes found in mammals and fruit flies have previously shown to play vital roles in brain development as well as embryonic survival.

Researchers with the help of externally developing zebrafish studied the mechanism that takes place when ACSL4 takes part in embryogenesis. Researchers also demonstrated that ACSL4 was essential for embryos to develop with proper tissue organization.

ACSL4 enzyme activity regulated a specific protein in the Bmp signaling pathway which was essential for proper embryo organization.

“We’ve known for some time that polyunsaturated fatty acids are important to prenatal health; in the US, these fatty acids are widely included in prenatal vitamins. By connecting polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism with a fundamental signaling pathway in the early embryo, our study provides a clue as to why they are so critical. These results lay the groundwork for further research on polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism and its various roles in development and disease,” said study lead author, Carnegie’s Steven Farber in the press release.

The study is published online in the December 12 issue of Developmental Cell.

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