The efficacy of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and dibutyryl cGMP (dbcGMP) as inducers of germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) in cumulus cell-enclosed mouse oocytes was examined when meiotic arrest was maintained in vitro with purines, dibutyryl cAMP (dbcAMP), or the phosphodiesterase inhibitor, 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX). When FSH was added to hypoxanthine (HX)-containing medium, the effect on oocyte maturation was at first inhibitory and later stimulatory. EGF stimulated GVBD at all time points tested. FSH and EGF also induced GVBD when oocytes were arrested with dbcAMP, IBMX, or guanosine. Dibutyryl cGMP stimulated GVBD when meiotic arrest was maintained with HX, but not when oocytes were meiotically arrested with guanosine, and was inhibitory in dbcAMP-supplemented medium. FSH and dbcGMP produced a transient delay of oocyte maturation in control medium, but the FSH effect was much more pronounced. EGF had no effect on maturation kinetics. The actions of FSH and EGF required the presence of cumulus cells. Both agents significantly stimulated cAMP production in oocyte-cumulus cell complexes. A brief exposure of complexes to a high concentration of dbcAMP induced GVBD, suggesting that FSH and EGF may act via a cAMP-dependent process. The frequency of FSH- and EGF-induced GVBD in cumulus cell-enclosed oocytes was significantly higher than the frequency of GVBD when oocytes were cultured while denuded of cumulus cells. of maturation is apparently not mediated solely by oocyte-cumulus cell uncoupling and termination of the transfer of an inhibitory meiotic signal from cumulus cells to the oocyte. The data suggest the generation of a positive signal within cumulus cells in response to hormone treatment that acts upon the oocyte to stimulate GVBD in the continued presence of inhibitory factors.