The effect of glucose and insulin on the in vitro development of the rat preimplantation embryo was studied by incubating rat blastocysts recovered on days 5 or 6 of pregnancy in the absence or presence of increasing levels of glucose and/or insulin for 24 or 48 h. A differential cell-staining method allowed the separate counting of inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm (TE) cells at the end of the incubation period. In a high-glucose medium (17 mM), ICM and, to a lesser extent, TE developments were significantly and irreversibly inhibited. Low insulin concentrations (3 pM) stimulated ICM and TE development in the presence of 1.1 or 6 mM glucose. Higher insulin levels (30–600 pM) in a 6-mM glucose medium, resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of ICM and, to a lesser extent, TE development after both 24 and 48 h. This insulin-induced inhibition was reversible if insulin was removed from the medium after 24 h. In the absence of glucose in the medium, insulin was neither stimulatory nor inhibitory on ICM growth. Dead-cell occurrence in ICM after a 48-h incubation increased with increasing glucose concentration in the medium. Insulin alone did not increase dead-cell number but enhanced the effect of glucose. These results show that, in the presence of glucose, insulin might be stimulatory (at low concentrations) or inhibitory (at higher concentrations) on ICM development. A high glucose level was also inhibitory and increased dead-cell occurrence. The data suggest that insulin and glucose might interact and modulate blastocyst development as a function of their respective concentrations.

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