The effects of cell cycle stage and the age of the cell donor animal on in vitro development of bovine nuclear transfer embryos were investigated. Cultures of primary bovine fibroblasts were established from animals of various ages, and the in vitro life span of these cell lines was analyzed. Fibroblasts from both fetuses and calves had similar in vitro life spans of approximately 30 population doublings (PDs) compared with 20 PDs in fibroblasts obtained from adult animals. When fibroblasts from both fetuses and adult animals were cultured as a population, the percentage of cells in G1 increased linearly with time, whereas the percentage of S-phase cells decreased proportionately. Furthermore, the percentage of cells in G1 at a given time was higher in adult fibroblasts than in fetal fibroblasts. To study the individual cells from a population, a shake-off method was developed to isolate cells in G1 stage of the cell cycle and evaluate the cell cycle characteristics of both fetal and adult fibroblasts from either 25% or 100% confluent cultures. Irrespective of the age, the mean cell cycle length in isolated cells was shorter (9.6-15.5 h) than that observed for cells cultured as a population. Likewise, the length of the G1 stage in these isolated cells, as indicated by 5-bromo-deoxyuridine labeling, lasted only about 2-3 h. There were no differences in either the number of cells in blastocysts or the percentage of blastocysts between the embryos reconstructed with G1 cells from 25% or 100% confluent cultures of fetal or adult cell lines. This study suggests that there are substantial differences in cell cycle characteristics in cells derived from animals of different ages or cultured at different levels of confluence. However, these factors had no effect on in vitro development of nuclear transfer embryos.