Previous work has shown that more than 50% or about 50 pg of polyadenylated RNA found in the full-grown mouse oocyte is deadenylated or degraded during meiotic maturation. Here we show that rRNA declines by 60 pg during this period, accounting for most of the 80-pg decline in total RNA and indicating that a significant amount of mRNA is deadenylated but not degraded during maturation. Actin mRNA is deadenylated at about 7 hr of in vitro maturation, following the decline in its translation. The poly(A) tail on hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) mRNA is elongated at 7 hr of maturation, preceding an increase in HPRT activity. Actin mRNA is partially degraded in the one-cell embryo and falls to near the limit of detection in the late two-cell stage, while HPRT mRNA shows no change in early two-cell embryos, but is deadenylated and declines greatly during the two-cell stage. In aging unfertilized eggs, most of these changes occur on a delayed schedule. The various species of alpha-tubulin mRNA are largely deadenylated and more than half are degraded during maturation. Taken together with other published results, we conclude that each mRNA has its own pattern of changes in the length of the poly(A) tail (correlated with translation) and degradation during the period of maternal control of protein synthesis, and, for those examined, the maternal mRNAs remaining in the early two-cell embryo are degraded to low levels by the late two-cell stage.