Summary. The development of synchronously and asynchronously transferred rabbit morulae (recovered at Day 3 p.c.) and blastocysts (recovered at Day 4p.c.) was investigated before the anticipated time of implantation. The results obtained with various techniques (evaluation of gross morphology, measurement of diameter, thymidine incorporation, light and electron microscopy) led basically to the same conclusions. Embryos being asynchronously transferred to the uterus of recipient rabbits survived, at least in terms of certain cellular functions like cell proliferation, for more than 2 days. Development, however, was clearly retarded and ultrastructural examination revealed substantial cell damage. Some blastocyts showed, even after 3 days, normal growth and cell proliferation indicating considerable differences between individuals in the ability to compensate for suboptimal developmental conditions before implantation. In general, this ability was greater in the transferred Day-3 morulae than in the Day-4 blastocysts. Embryonic growth and the ability to dissolve the zona pellucida, to synthesize crystalloid bodies and to differentiate extraembryonic endoderm indicated the maintenance of some developmental functions under asynchronous conditions.
Blastocyst development was influenced by the progestational stage of the recipient. At 1 day after transfer into asynchronous older uteri, blastocyst diameters were larger and cell proliferation was increased compared with all other groups, suggesting an attempt of the blastocyst to adjust to the more advanced maternal milieu. Development in asynchronous younger uteri was delayed.
No comparable differences in development were found in cultured embryos for which the media had been supplemented with flushings from the same progestational uterine stages as used for transfer. Thymidine incorporation in cultured embryos did not differ between the various supplements (P > 0·05) and was generally lower than in chronologically aged asynchronously transferred embryos (P < 0·05 for Day-3 and P < 0·001 or P > 0·05 for Day-4 embryos).
Keywords: uterine transfer; asynchrony; blastocyst; rabbit preimplantation development; in-vitro culture