The c-mos proto-oncogene product is a key element in the cascade of events leading to meiotic maturation of vertebrate oocytes. We have investigated the role of cytoplasmic polyadenylation in the translational control of mouse c-mos mRNA and its contribution to meiosis. Using an RNase protection assay we show that optimal cytoplasmic polyadenylation of c-mos mRNA requires three cis elements in the 3' UTR: the polyadenylation hexanucleotide AAUAAA and two U-rich cytoplasmic polyadenylation elements (CPEs) located 4 and 51 nucleotides upstream of the hexanucleotide. When fused to CAT coding sequences, the wild-type 3' UTR of c-mos mRNA, but not a 3' UTR containing mutations in both CPEs, confers translational recruitment during maturation. This recruitment coincides with maximum polyadenylation. To assess whether c-mos mRNA polyadenylation is necessary for maturation of mouse oocytes, we have ablated endogenous c-mos mRNA by injecting an antisense oligonucleotide, which results in a failure to progress to meiosis II after emission of the first polar body. Such antisense oligonucleotide-injected oocytes could be efficiently rescued by co-injection of a c-mos mRNA carrying a wild-type 3' UTR. However, co-injection of a c-mos mRNA lacking functional CPEs substantially lowered the rescue activity. These results demonstrate that translational control of c-mos mRNA by cytoplasmic polyadenylation is necessary for normal development.