The objective of the study was to investigate the effect of l-ergothioneine (l-erg) (5 mM or 10 mM) supplementation in maturation medium on the developmental potential and OCTN1-dependant l-erg-mediated (10 mM) change in mRNA abundance of apoptotic (Bcl2, Bax, Casp3 and PCNA) and antioxidant (GPx, SOD1, SOD2 and CAT) genes in sheep oocytes and developmental stages of embryos produced in vitro. Oocytes matured with l-erg (10 mM) reduced their embryo toxicity by decreasing intracellular ROS and increasing intracellular GSH in matured oocytes that in turn improved developmental potential, resulting in significantly (P < 0.05) higher percentages of cleavage (53.72% vs 38.86, 46.56%), morulae (34.36% vs 20.62, 25.84%) and blastocysts (14.83% vs 6.98, 9.26%) compared with other lower concentrations (0 mM and 5 mM) of l-erg without change in maturation rate. l-Erg (10 mM) treatment did not influence the mRNA abundance of the majority of apoptotic and antioxidant genes studied in the matured oocytes and developmental stages of embryo. A gene expression study found that the SLC22A4 gene that encodes OCTN1, an integral membrane protein and specific transporter of l-erg was not expressed in oocytes and developmental stages of embryos. Therefore it was concluded from the study that although there was improvement in the developmental potential of sheep embryos by l-erg supplementation in maturation medium, there was no change in the expression of the majority of the genes studied due to the absence of the SLC22A4 gene in oocytes and embryos that encode OCTN1, which is responsible for transportation of l-erg across the membrane to alter gene expression.