Mouse oocytes are reversibly inhibited from resuming meiotic maturation in vitro by cAMP phosphodiesterase inhibitors such as 3-isobutyl-1-methyl xanthine (IBMX) and cAMP analogs such as dibutyryl cAMP (dbcAMP). Oocytes cultured in IBMX-containing medium were transferred to and cultured in IBMX-free medium for various periods of time prior to their return to either IBMX- or dbcAMP-containing medium. Results from these experiments defined a period of time in which oocytes became committed to resuming meiosis. Forskolin, which elevated the intracellular oocyte cAMP concentration, transiently inhibited oocytes from resuming meiosis. Levels of cAMP were determined in oocytes incubated in medium that allows resumption of meiosis. The level of oocyte cAMP decreased significantly during the time in which oocytes become committed to resuming meiosis. This decrease in oocyte cAMP was not observed in oocytes inhibited from resuming meiosis by IBMX. In addition, cAMP levels were determined in preovulatory antral follicles, cumulus cell-oocyte complexes, and oocytes during gonadotropin-induced resumption of meiosis in vivo. A decrease in oocyte cAMP preceded resumption of meiosis as manifested by germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD). This decrease apparently occurred before or during a period of time in which follicle and cumulus cell cAMP were increasing. Associated with commitment to resume meiosis was a characteristic set of changes in oocyte phosphoprotein metabolism that preceded GVBD. These changes are, to date, some of the first reported biochemical changes that precede GVBD. Results from these experiments are discussed in terms of a possible role cAMP may play in regulation of resumption of meiosis in mammals.