Summary. Day 3 to Day 5 preimplantation rabbit embryos were cultured for 24 h in chemically defined media which are widely used in early embryo culture (BSM II and Ham's F-10) supplemented with BSA or homologous serum. For the next 24 h, the embryos were left in the same culture medium, placed in freshly made medium, or cultured in medium which was supplemented with uterine flushings. In addition, 24-h cultured embryos were transferred into uteri of synchronous recipients for 1 day. After culture or transfer, development was assessed by cell proliferation evaluated by incorporation of tritiated thymidine.
In comparison to non-cultured controls, thymidine incorporation demonstrated a considerably impaired cell proliferation after culture in defined media irrespective of medium, supplement, or replenishment with fresh medium. For Day 3 embryos, there was a developmental retardation amounting to about 1 day after 2 days in culture. Compared to Day 3 embryos, delay was clearly more pronounced in Day 4 and Day 5 blastocysts, i.e. in stages which had been retrieved from the uterus before culture. Supplementation with uterine flushings markedly promoted blastocyst cell proliferation (P < 0·001). Incorporation data examined after transfer showed that impairment of cell proliferation caused by 1 day in culture had been compensated for to a large extent within 1 day in utero.