A major form of cell-cell communication is mediated by gap junctions, aggregations of intercellular channels composed of connexins (Cxs), which are responsible for exchange of low molecular weight (< 1200 Da) cytosolic materials. These channels are a growing family of related proteins. This study was designed to determine the ontogeny of connexin 43 (Cx43) during early stages of follicular development in prepubertal porcine ovaries. A partial-length (412 base) cDNA clone was obtained from mature porcine ovaries and determined to have 98% identity with published porcine Cx43. Northern blot analysis demonstrated a 4.3-kb mRNA in total RNA isolated from prepubertal and adult porcine ovaries. In-situ hybridization revealed that Cx43 mRNA was detectable in granulosa cells of primary follicles but undetectable in dormant primordial follicles. The intensity of the signal increased with follicular growth and was greatest in the large antral follicles. Immunohistochemical evaluation indicated that Cx43 protein expression correlated with the presence of Cx43 mRNA. These results indicate that substantial amounts of Cx43 are first expressed in granulosa cells following activation of follicular development and that this expression increases throughout follicular growth and maturation. These findings suggest an association between the enhancement of intercellular gap-junctional communication and onset of follicular growth. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.