Rat hepatoma Reuber H-35 cells produce a unique compound designated as Fr.B-25, a 2-cell stage-specific inhibitor of the cleavage of preimplantation mouse embryos cultured in vitro. Here, we identified Fr.B-25 as a purine nucleoside, 5′-deoxy-5′-methylthioadenosine (MTA), by mass spectroscopic analysis. All of the biological activities examined of authentic MTA on the development of mouse zygotes were indistinguishable from those of Fr.B-25. The mechanism of MTA action in the development of preimplantation mouse embryos was probably different from those of hypoxanthine and adenosine, which are well-characterized purine nucleosides that act as inhibitors of the cleavage of mouse 2-cell embryos. From the shared molecular and biological properties of Fr.B-25 and MTA, we concluded that Fr.B-25 is MTA. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first delineation of the effect of MTA on the development of preimplantation mammalian embryos cultured in vitro.