Full-grown Xenopus oocytes arrest at the G2/M border of meiosis I. Progesterone breaks this arrest, leading to the resumption of the meiotic cell cycles and maturation of the oocyte into a fertilizable egg. In these oocytes, progesterone interacts with an unidentified surface-associated receptor, which induces a non-transcriptional signalling pathway that stimulates the translation of dormant c-mos messenger RNA. Mos, a mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase kinase kinase, indirectly activates MAP kinase, which in turn leads to oocyte maturation. The translational recruitment of c-mos and several other mRNAs is regulated by cytoplasmic polyadenylation, a process that requires two 3' untranslated regions, the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element (CPE) and the polyadenylation hexanucleotide AAUAAA. Although the signalling events that trigger c-mos mRNA polyadenylation and translation are unclear, they probably involve the activation of CPEB, the CPE binding factor. Here we show that an early site-specific phosphorylation of CPEB is essential for the polyadenylation of c-mos mRNA and its subsequent translation, and for oocyte maturation. In addition, we show that this selective, early phosphorylation of CPEB is catalysed by Eg2, a member of the Aurora family of serine/threonine protein kinases.