Germ cells in the mouse embryo remain undifferentiated until about 13.5 days post-coitum (dpc), when male germ cells enter mitotic arrest and female germ cells enter meiosis. The molecular signals and transcriptional control mechanisms governing the differential fate of germ cells in males and females remain largely unknown. In order to gain insights into the behavior of germ cells around this period and into likely mechanisms controlling entry into meiosis, we have studied by wholemount in situ hybridization the expression pattern of two germ cell-specific markers, Oct4 and Sycp3, during mouse fetal gonad development. We observed a dynamic wave of expression of both genes in developing ovaries, with Oct4 expression being extinguished in a rostro-caudal wave and Sycp3 being upregulated in a corresponding wave, during the period 13.5–15.5 dpc. These results indicate that entry into meiosis proceeds in a rostro-caudal progression, in turn suggesting that somatically derived signals may contribute to the control of germ cell entry into meiosis in developing ovaries. Mol. Reprod. Dev. 68: 422–428, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.