We investigated the effects of cholesterol starvation on Caenorhabditis elegans development at both embryonic and post-embryonic stages by examining brood size, embryonic lethality, growth rate, and worm size. The brood sizes of worms grown without cholesterol were substantially reduced in subsequent generations as compared to the control group with cholesterol: 13, 33, and 39% at the first, the second, and the third generation, respectively. The growth rate was also reduced by 20%-26%. Worms became adults after 120-130 hr incubation at 20 degrees C. Embryonic lethality was detected in the range of 1.6%-2.9% as compared to 0.8% of the control group. The percent development from an embryo to an adult was lowered by an average of 10%. Further analyses of germ line development to understand the reduction of brood size revealed that both germ line proliferation and differentiation were affected, and the most striking effect was seen in oogenesis. Defective oogenesis resulted in endomitotic oocytes (Emo, 22% at F1, 26% at F2, and 30% at F3). Thus, cholesterol appears to be required for all developmental stages of C. elegans.