The development of a single-celled fertilized egg, through the blastocyst stage of a ball of cells and the embryonic stage when almost all organ systems begin to develop, and finally to the fetal stage where growth and physiological maturation occurs, is a complex and multifaceted process. A change in metabolism during gestation, especially when organogenesis occurs, can lead to abnormal development and congenital defects. Although many studies have described the roles of specific proteins in development, the roles of specific lipids, such as sterols, have not been studied as intensely. Sterol's functions in development range from being a structural component of membranes to regulating the patterning of the forebrain through sonic hedgehog to regulating expression of key proteins involved in metabolic processes. This review focuses on the roles of sterols in embryonic and fetal development and metabolism. Potential sources of cholesterol for the fetus and embryo are also discussed.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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