The cryopreservation of pronuclear-stage embryos has particular importance in transgenic technology and human assisted reproductive technology (ART). The objective of this study was to improve the efficiency of cryopreservation of pronuclear-stage mouse embryos. Two vitrification methods (solid surface vitrification (SSV) vs. vitrification in cryotube) have been compared with special emphasis on the effect of the exposure of the embryos to the solutions for various times and the sugar content (trehalose, sucrose, or raffinose) of the vitrification solutions. Pronuclear-stage embryos were either exposed to I M dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)+1 M propylene-glycol (PG) solution for 2, 5, 10, or 15 min or not exposed to this "equilibration" solution. The vitrification solutions consisted of 2.75 M DMSO and 2.75 M PG in M2 medium supplemented with 1 M trehalose (DPT), 1 M sucrose (DPS), or 1 M raffinose (DPR). In the cryotube method, groups of 15-25 embryos were transferred into a 1.8 ml cryotube containing 30 mul of DPT, DPS, or DPR. After 30 sec, the cryotubes were directly plunged into liquid nitrogen (LN2) and stored for 1 day to I month. Vitrified samples were warmed by immersing the cryotubes in a 40degreesC water bath and then immediately diluted with 300 mul of 0.3 M trehalose, sucrose, or raffinose in M2. In the SSV method, after equilibration 15-20 embryos were exposed to DPT, DPS, or DPR solutions for around 20 sec before being dropped in 2-mul drops onto a pre-cooled (-150 to -180degreesC) metal surface. Vitrified droplets were stored in cryovials in LN2. Warming was performed by transferring the vitrified droplets into 0.3 M solutions of trehalose, sucrose, or raffinose at 37degreesC, respectively. Results showed that both SSV and cryotube vitrification methods can result in high rates of in vitro blastocyst development (up to 58.3 and 68.5% with DPR, respectively), not statistically different from that of the controls (58.3 and 64.4%). Even without the equilibration step prior to vitrification, relatively high-survival rates have been achieved, except for the DPS solution. In conclusion, vitrification of pronuclear-stage mouse embryos can result in high rates of in vitro development to blastocyst, and the use of raffinose in the vitrification solution is advantageous to improve cryosurvival. (C) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.