Embryonic stem (ES) cells are characterized by pluripotency, in particular the ability to form a germline on injection into blastocysts. Despite numerous attempts, ES cell lines derived from rat embryos have not yet been established. The reason for this is unclear, although certain intrinsic biological differences among species and/or strains have been reported. Herein, using Wistar-Imamichi rats, specific characteristics of preimplantation embryos are described. At the blastocyst stage, Oct4 (also called Pou5f1) was expressed in both the inner cell mass (ICM) and the trophectoderm (TE), whereas expression of Cdx2 was localized to the TE. In contrast, at an earlier stage, expression of Oct4 was detected in all the nuclei in the morula. These stages were examined using a combination of feeder layers (rat embryonic fibroblast [REF] for primary outgrowth and SIM mouse embryo-derived thioguanine- and ouabain-resistant [STO] cells for passaging) to establish rat ES-like cell lines. The rat ES-like cell lines obtained from the morula maintained expression of Oct4 over long-term culture, whereas cell lines derived from blastocysts lost pluripotency during early passage. The morula-derived ES-like cell lines showed Oct4 expression in a long-term culture, even after cryogenic preservation, thawing and EGFP transfection. These results indicate that rat ES-like cell lines with long-term Oct4 expression can be established from the morula of Wistar-Imamichi rats using a combination of feeder layers.