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Cysteine supplementation to in vitro maturation (IVM) media of bovine oocytes increases cellular glutathione production. Beneficial effects of growth factors for improving the rate of blastocyst development have been reported, but combined effects are unknown. This study was conducted to determine the additive effect of cysteine with epidermal growth factor (EGF) and/or insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) on embryo development. Bovine oocytes from slaughterhouse ovaries were matured in TCM-199 (control), with or without the addition of 0.6 mm cysteine (C) at 0 or 12 h of maturation. After in vitro fertilization, embryos were allocated to culture treatments containing synthetic oviductal fluid medium. Culture treatments included fetal calf serum (FCS, 4%) alone; IGF-I (100 ng/ml); EGF (10 ng/ml); and IGF-I + EGF (100 + 10 ng/ml). Although rates for blastocysts development were not different among treatments, an increased proportion of embryos attaining morula formation was achieved when cysteine was added to the maturation media (12 h C IGF-I + EGF, 41.4%; 0 h C EGF, 40.0%) as compared to control (FCS: 34.6%). When cysteine treatments were combined, percent cleavage was greater for IGF-I + EGF (70.8%) compared to FCS (61.2%). The abundance of mRNA from the apoptotic genes, Bax and Bcl-2, and the oxidative stress genes, copper (Cu)-zinc (Zn) superoxide dismutase (SOD) and manganese (Mn) SOD in embryos was assessed. No treatment effect was observed on the expression of these genes. In conclusion, supplementation of cysteine during IVM of oocytes, in conjunction with growth factors could effectively be used as a replacement for FCS.