A technique has been developed for extruding either substantial amounts of cytoplasm without nuclei or individual nuclei with small amounts of cytoplasm from early embryos of C. elegans after perforating the eggshell with a laser microbeam. This technique, in conjunction with laser-induced cell fusion, has allowed the altering of nuclear/cytoplasmic ratios and the exposing of the nucleus of one cell to cytoplasm from another. Using these approaches the roles of nuclei and cytoplasm in determining the different cell-cycle periods of the several blastomere lineages in early embryos have been examined. It was found that nuclei in a common cytoplasm divide synchronously; enucleated blastomeres retain a cycling period characteristic of their lineage; cycling period is not substantially affected by changes in the ratio of nuclear to cytoplasmic volumes or the DNA content per cell; the period of a cell from one lineage can be substantially altered by introduction of cytoplasm from a cell of another lineage with a different period; and short-term effects of foreign cytoplasm on the timing of the subsequent mitosis differ depending on position of the donor cell in the cell cycle. These results are discussed in connection with models for the action of cytoplasmic factors in controlling cell-cycle timing.