The development of embryos, trophoblast and decidua of IL-11-treated rats were examined in vivo, while ectoplacental cones (EPC) were studied in vitro. Female Wistar rats were injected daily with buffer (C), 1 mg/kg IL-11 (HD) daily or 30 microgram/kg (LD) IL-11 twice a week. On day 9 of pregnancy, embryonic tissue volume was reduced in IL-11-treated animals, but EPC volume was elevated, compared to controls. Mitotic indices were reduced in embryos (P<0.05 for LD, P<0.001 for HD) and in EPCs of both groups. Pycnotic indices were elevated in LD (NS) and HD (P<0.05) embryos, but decreased in EPCs of the LD group (P<0.01). Morphological abnormalities were observed in decidua, embryo and trophoblast. In HD, EPC attachment was impaired after 1 day culture but proliferation was stimulated after 5 days. Defective decidualization in IL-11 treated rats may therefore result in abnormal development of embryo and trophoblast.