The developmental potential of bovine fetal germ cells was evaluated using nuclear transfer. Male and female germ cells at three stages of fetal development from 50- to 57-, 65- to 76- or 95- to 105-day-old fetuses were fused to enucleated oocytes 2 to 4 hr prior to activation with 7% ethanol (5 min) followed by 5 hr culture in 10 mu g/ml cycloheximide and 5 mu g/ml cytochalasin B. The in vitro development of nuclear transfer embryos derived from germ cells was compared with those derived from embryonic cells (blastomeres from day 5 or day 6 embryos). Blastocyst rate (38%) obtained with germ cells from 50- to 57-day-old fetuses tended to be higher than when using germ cells from 65- to 76- or 95- to 105-day-old fetuses (23% and 20%, respectively). Within each stage of fetal development, the proportion of blastocysts derived from male germ cells tended to be higher than that obtained with female germ cells, but due to the high variation between individual fetuses this difference was not significant. With the post activation procedure used in this study, germ cells from 50- to 57-day-old fetuses supported the development of nuclear transfer embryos to the blastocyst stage significantly (P < 0.05) better than nuclei of embryonic cells (38% vs. 3%). After transfer of blastocysts derived from germ cells of 50 to 57- and 65- to 76-day fetuses, respectively, 45% (5/11) and 50% (3/6) recipients were pregnant on day 30. The corresponding pregnancy rates on day 90 were 36% (4/11) and 17% (1/6). One live male calf was delivered by cesarean section at day 277 of gestation. Our results show that nuclei of bovine fetal germ cells may successfully be reprogrammed to support fullterm development of nuclear transfer embryos. (C) 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.