• Half embryos;
  • Mose;
  • Inner cell mass;
  • Trophectoderm;
  • Cell allocation;
  • Embryo culture


We have investigted the developmental capacity of mouse embryos in which one blastomere was destroyed by lysis at the 2-cell stage. The allocation of cells to the trophectoderm and inner cell mass (ICM) was documented by differential cell counts on single embryos after 2 days under different culture conditions. Viability and further developmental potential were tested by embryo transfer to foster mothers. The conditions used were: (1) in vitro culture in modified BMOC-2 medium, (2) in vivo oviduct transfer to immature (prepuberal) females, and (3) in vivo oviduct transfer to pseudopregnant females. Half embryos almost always fared less well for all parameters of development than control embryos developing under the same conditions. Lower total cell numbers in half embryos were accounted for by decreases in both ICM and trophectoderm with a disproportionate decrease in ICM in smaller embryos. In both half and control embryos, the growth conditions affected the rate of morphological development, the total cell number, and embryo viability. Unlike the effect of halving embryos, the growth condition effects on total cell number can be accounted for primarily by differences in ICM cell number, with trophectoderm cell number remaining constant. These results provide new information on the ability of the mouse embryo to differentially regulate ICM and trophectoderm cell number under different conditions, and confirm our previous work showing the advantage of short-term development in vivo over short-term in vitro culture (Papaioannou and Ebert [1986] J. Reprod. Fertil. 76:603–608). They also clearly document that lower total cell number and a lower proportion of ICM is correlated with compromised development.