Deregulated activity of the Abl protein tyrosine kinase is oncogenic in humans and in animals. The normal cellular form of the enzyme is maintained at a low state of activity by mechanisms that have not yet been entirely elucidated. In particular, little is known about the trans-acting cellular factors involved. We have tested the activity of human c-Abl microinjected into oocytes of Xenopus laevis. In contrast to versions of Abl capable of transforming mammalian cells, which were highly active when introduced into oocytes, the activity of wild type c-Abl was inhibited. Oncogenic forms of Abl efficiently enhanced the ability of Xenopus oocytes to enter M phase following stimulation by progesterone. Abl-enhanced maturation was normal as judged by accumulation of Mos as well as activation of MAP kinase and Cdc2/CyclinB (MPF). Concomitant with maturation and activation of these kinases, Abl became extensively phosphorylated. Altogether, this suggests that an SH3 domain-dependent Abl regulation mechanism similar to the one observed in mammalian cells operates in Xenopus oocytes. Maturation enhancement by microinjection into Xenopus oocytes represents a useful novel assay for analyzing Abl activity. Moreover, the Xenopus oocyte may be a convenient source of trans-acting Abl regulators for biochemical studies.