After ovulation mammalian oocytes arrest in second meiotic metaphase. We asked whether the microtubules that comprise the meiotic spindle of mouse oocytes were stable or were undergoing rapid cycles of assembly and disassembly. Porcine brain tubulin, derivatized with biotin or x-rhodamine [5- (and -6)-carboxy-x-rhodamine], was microinjected into living oocytes. Biotinylated tubulin incorporated into the meiotic spindle to apparent equilibrium within 15 min. To assess quantitatively the rates of disassembly and assembly of the microtubules, small domains within the spindles of oocytes injected with x-rhodamine-tubulin were photobleached and their recovery was analyzed by digital imaging microscopy. Fluorescence recovery in the spindles was rapid and extensive, plateauing to an average of 83% at 4 min. The calculated half-time for turnover of the spindle microtubules was 77 sec. In contrast, fluorescence recovery of the spindle midbodies in telophase oocytes was much more limited, averaging approximately 22% at 4 min. These data indicate that most microtubules within the arrested metaphase spindle of the mouse oocyte undergo rapid cycles of assembly and disassembly. Microtubules of the telophase midbody are more stable.