In this study we tested the hypothesis that the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) participates in the meiotic induction of mouse oocytes. The electron acceptors methylene blue, phenazine ethosulfate (PES), and pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C) oxidize NADPH to NADP and activate the NADP-dependent enzymes of the PPP. Each of these compounds triggered a dose-dependent increase in meiotic maturation in hypoxanthine-arrested cumulus cell-enclosed oocytes during 17- to 18-h cultures. More than 96% of the oocytes underwent germinal vesicle breakdown (GVB) at the highest concentrations of P5C and PES tested (250 and 1 µM, respectively) as compared to only 45-52% of control oocytes. P5C was also stimulatory to denuded oocytes. Analysis of energy substrates in microdrop cultures revealed a 3.6-fold increase in glucose consumption by PES-treated oocyte-cumulus cell complexes that was associated with stimulation of GVB. On the other hand, 2-deoxyglucose, which interferes with glucose utilization, prevented the induction of maturation brought about by P5C. Apocynin and diphenyleneiodonium, inhibitors of NADPH oxidase, prevented meiotic maturation in the presence or absence of FSH. Gonadotropin-induced maturation was also prevented by 6-aminonicotinamide (6-AN) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), inhibitors of the two NADP-dependent enzymes of the PPP, and this was accompanied by suppression of glucose consumption. Phosphoribosyl-pyrophosphate (PRPP) is an important compound required in purine metabolism and can be formed from the end product of the oxidative arm of the PPP, ribose-5-phosphate. Ribose, which can be metabolized to PRPP, increased PRPP synthesis in complexes and induced meiotic maturation when added to hypoxanthine-arrested cumulus cell-enclosed oocytes in glucose-free medium in both the presence and absence of FSH. PRPP levels within complexes were also increased by glucose and FSH, but were reduced by hypoxanthine, 6-AN, and DHEA. In addition, exogenous PRPP stimulated maturation in hypoxanthine-arrested oocytes. These results support the proposition that glucose metabolism through the PPP is important in the meiotic induction mechanism and may involve the generation of PRPP that acts, at least in part, through the purine metabolizing pathways.