Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 November 2008
Previous studies showed that the addition of a growth factor to the culture medium could modulate embryo development. The possible secretion of different factors to the culture medium by the embryo itself, however, has been poorly evaluated. The present study was designed to investigate: (1) the influence of single or group culture on the development of 2-cell mouse embryos (strain CD-1) to the blastocyst stage; (2) the release of granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and stem cell factor (SCF) into the culture medium by the embryo; and (3) the levels of GM-CSF and SCF in the culture medium from both single and group embryos. Two-cell CD-1 mouse embryos were cultured for 96 h singly or in groups of five embryos per drop. GM-CSF and SCF were assayed by ELISA in the complete culture medium. It was found that embryos cultured in groups gave a higher percentage of total blastocyst formation and hatched blastocyst when compared with single embryo culture. The mouse embryos secreted GM-CSF and SCF to the culture medium. The concentration of these cytokines is significantly higher in the group cultures than the level found in single cultures. In conclusion, mouse embryos in culture secrete GM-CSF and SCF to the culture medium and the concentration of these cytokines increases during communal culture. These factors may be operating in both autocrine and paracrine pathways to modulate embryo development during in vitro culture.