The Ascidiacea, the invertebrate chordates, includes three orders; the Stolidobranchia is the most complex. Until the present study, the onset of oocyte maturation (germinal vesicle breakdown) had been investigated in only a single pyurid (Halocynthia roretzi), in which germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) begins when the oocyte contacts seawater (SW); nothing was known about internal events. This study strongly suggests the importance of protein phosphorylation in this process. Herdmania pallida (Pyuridae) functions like H. roretzi; GVBD occurs in SW. Oocytes of Cnemidocarpa irene (Styelidae) do not spontaneously undergo GVBD in SW but must be activated. Herdmania oocytes are inhibited from GVBD by pH 4 SW and subsequently activated by mastoparan (G-protein activator), A23187 (Ca2+ ionophore) or dimethylbenzanthracene (tyrosine kinase activator). This requires maturation promoting factor (MPF) activity; cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors roscovitine and olomoucine are inhibitory. It also entails dephosphorylation as demonstrated by the ability of the phosphatase inhibitor vitamin K3 to inhibit GVBD. GVBD is also inhibited by the tyrosine kinase inhibitors tyrphostin A23 and genistein, and LY-294002, a phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase inhibitor previously shown to inhibit starfish GVBD. LY-294002 inhibits strongly when activation is by mastoparan or ionophore but not when activated by dimethylbenzanthracene (DMBA). The DMBA is hypothesized to phosphorylate a phosphatase directly or indirectly causing secondary activation, bypassing inhibition.