Mouse oocytes can be classified according to their chromatin organization and the presence [surrounded nucleolus (SN) oocytes] or absence [nonsurrounded nucleolus (NSN) oocytes] of a ring of Hoechst-positive chromatin around the nucleolus. Following fertilization only SN oocytes are able to develop beyond the two-cell stage. These studies indicate a correlation between SN and NSN chromatin organization and the developmental competence of the female gamete, which may depend on gene expression. In the present study, we have used the HSP70.1Luc transgene (murine HSP70.1 promoter + reporter gene firefly luciferase) to analyze gene expression in oocytes isolated from ovaries of 2-day- to 13-week-old females. Luciferase was assayed on oocytes after classification as SN or NSN type. Our data show that SN oocytes always exhibit a higher level of luciferase activity, demonstrating a higher gene expression in this category. Only after meiotic resumption, metaphase II oocytes derived from NSN or SN oocytes acquire the same level of transgene expression. We suggest that the limited availability of transcripts and corresponding proteins, excluded from the cytoplasm until GVBD in NSN oocytes, could explain why these oocytes have a lower ability to sustain embryonic development beyond the two-cell stage at which major zygotic transcription occurs. With this study we have furthered our knowledge of epigenetic regulation of gene expression in oogenesis.