The initiation of oocyte and follicle growth was studied in 1- and 3-d-old calf ovaries using cytochemical, autoradiographical and electron microscopical approaches. Attention was only paid to unilaminar ovarian follicles that were classified into 3 categories: unilaminar flattened (UF), unilaminar flatto-cuboidal (UFC) and unilaminar cuboidal (UC) ovarian follicles when the oocyte was surrounded by 1 layer of flattened, a mixture of flattened and cuboidal and entirely cuboidal follicle cells, respectively. Our findings suggested that oocytes within each of these follicle categories were in different developmental stages. Furthermore, electron microscopic observations revealed that early after birth, oocyte nuclei characteristic of diplotene configuration (aggregation of the nuclear chromatin into moderately electron-dense small patches and fibrillo-granular texture of the nucleolus) were encountered in 41% of the UF follicles. The rest of the UF as well as all of the UFC and UC follicles were found to contain dictyate oocytes in which the chromatin was highly decondensed and the nucleolus differentiated into fibrillar, fibrillo-granular and granular components. The present results also indicated that the complete transition of the surrounding follicle cells from flattened to cuboidal shape and the morphological changes of the oocyte endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria were 2 complementary events essential for initiation of oocyte growth.