Summary. When epidermal growth factor (EGF) was added to the medium for culture of preimplantation embryos, morphological development as determined by microscopic observation was unaffected, but 333 nm-EGF stimulated total uptake of [3H]leucine by late morulae/blastocysts which had been cultured for 24 h from morulae. Incorporation of [3H]leucine into protein by these embryos was increased by 0·33, 3·3 and 33 nm-EGF, following a quadratic relationship producing less stimulation at 333 nm, which may indicate down regulation of receptors. The estimated EC50 was ∼0·25 nm. Manipulation of the culture period indicated that the embryos responded to EGF at the morula/blastocyst transition period and immunosurgery was used to show that the increased protein synthesis was restricted to the trophectoderm cells. No mitogenic effect was observed. The effective concentration of EGF is close to that of serum and to values which stimulate other tissues. It is suggested that EGF receptors appear at compaction and that EGF may have a role in differentiation of the trophectoderm cells.
Keywords: EGF; preimplantation embryos; protein synthesis; mouse