Ham's F-10, a chemically defined, complex culture medium, commonly used for in vitro fertilization of human as well as animal oocytes, blocked development at the 2-cell stage of greater than 92% of embryos from random-bred Swiss mice (CD-1), but did not block development of embryos from hybrid-inbred mice (BDF1). In contrast, BWW, a simple, modified Kreb's-Ringer bicarbonate medium, supported development to blastocysts of 85% and 100% of 2-cell embryos from CD1 and BDF1 females, respectively. As little as 15% (v/v) Ham's F-10 added to the BWW blocked the development of the random-bred embryos. Supplementing the BWW with Ham's F-10 components revealed that hypoxanthine (6-30 microM) was responsible for the developmental block to the random-bred embryos. The hypoxanthine block was partially (40%) reversed by adding the chelating agent, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. Breeding experiments showed that the hypoxanthine sensitivity of embryos from CD-1 mothers was not affected by the paternal genome.