The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of pulsed, extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) on in-vitro mouse pre-antral follicle development. Pre-antral follicles were cultured for 5 days and exposed to ELF-EMF at the frequencies of 33 or 50 Hz. ELF-EMF application did not affect follicular growth over a 3 day culture period, but on day 5 the growth of 33 Hz-exposed follicles was significantly reduced when compared with controls, while the 50 Hz-exposed follicles were not significantly affected. However, ELF-EMF severely impaired antrum formation at both frequencies, as 79 +/- 3% of control follicles developed antral cavities compared with 30 +/- 6% and 51.6 +/- 4% of 33 or 50 Hz-exposed follicles respectively. The follicles with failed antrum formation showed lower oestradiol release and granulosa cell DNA synthesis, but these effects were not related to granulosa cell apoptosis. Furthermore, a high percentage of the in-vitro grown oocytes obtained from exposed follicles had a reduced ability to resume meiotic maturation when compared with controls. These results suggest that ELF-EMF exposure might impair mammalian female reproductive potentiality by reducing the capacity of the follicles to reach a developmental stage that is an essential pre-requisite for reproductive success.