Tetraploid (4n) mouse embryos die at variable developmental stages. By examining 4n embryos from F2 hybrid and outbred mice, we show that 4n developmental potential is influenced by genetic background. The imprinted inactivation of an X chromosome-linked eGFP transgene in extraembryonic tissues occurred correctly in 4n embryos. A decrease of the cleavage rate in 4n preimplantation embryos compared to diploid (2n) embryos was revealed by real-time imaging, using a histone H2b:eGFP reporter. It has previously been known that mouse chimeras produced by the combination of diploid (2n) embryos with embryonic stem (ES) cells result in mixtures of the two components in epiblast-derived tissues. In contrast, the use of 4n host embryos with ES cells restricts 4n cells from the embryonic regions of chimeras, resulting in mice that are believed to be completely ES-derived. Using H2b:eGFP transgenic mice and ES cells, the behavior of 4n cells was determined at single cell resolution in 4n:2n injection and aggregation chimeras. We found a significant contribution of 4n cells to the embryonic ectoderm at gastrulation in every chimera analyzed. We show that the transition of the embryonic regions from a chimeric tissue to a predominantly 2n tissue occurs after gastrulation and that tetraploid cells may persist to midgestation. These findings suggest that the results of previously published tetraploid complementation assays may be influenced by the presence of tetraploid cells in the otherwise diploid embryonic regions.