Some culture systems have been shown to support oocyte growth in mice, although there has been little success in applying these systems to other species. In the present study, we compared three culture conditions for growing bovine oocytes and examined the effect of hypoxanthine on oocyte growth. In the first experiment, early antral follicles, 0.4-0.7 mm in diameter were collected, and oocyte-cumulus-granulosa cell complexes (OCGs) and oocyte-cumulus cell complexes (OCs) were dissected from the follicles. Follicles (Fs), OCGs and OCs were embedded in collagen gels and cultured in serum-supplemented medium for 16 days. In the Fs, OCGs and OCs cultured in hypoxanthine-free medium, 21%, 9% and 4% of the oocytes showed normal morphology, respectively, and hypoxanthine (4 mM) increased the percentages in all the groups (Fs, 37%; OCGs, 29%; OCs, 10%). In the second experiment, Fs were cultured in serum-free medium with or without hypoxanthine for 16 days. Histological examination demonstrated that hypoxanthine maintained the integrity of the follicular basement membrane. After a growth culture, 91% of the oocytes showed normal morphology, and 87% of the oocytes were at the germinal vesicle stage in serum-free, hypoxanthine-supplemented medium. The mean diameters of the oocytes were significantly larger (117.6 ± 5.7 mm) than they were in the other groups and than they had been before the culture (approximately 95 mm). After a subsequent maturation culture of the oocytes, 85% underwent germinal vesicle breakdown and 23% reached the second metaphase. These results demonstrate that growing bovine oocytes from early antral follicles grow efficiently in follicles cultured in serum-free, hypoxanthine-supplemented medium and acquire meiotic competence.