Abstract Several layers of cumulus cells surround the oocyte in the antral ovarian follicle throughout the follicular development until ovulation. The cumulus cells play an important supportive and regulative role in oocyte development and maturation via intercellular communications between oocytes and cumulus cells. Using the differential display reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (DD-RT-PCR) and semi-quantitative RT-PCR methods, we compared the mRNA expression patterns in porcine oocytes from two sources: cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) and naked oocytes (NOs). After a small scale screen, 14 differentially expressed mRNAs were cloned, sequenced, and their expression patterns were verified by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. It was confirmed that four mRNAs including three genes (PELP1, Myo5b and CAST) and a new EST (Expressed Sequence Tag) are expressed preferentially in the oocytes of COCs rather than in NOs. Previous studies of the three genes suggested that they are mainly involved in oestrogen receptor regulation, membrane trafficking, organelle transport, cellular signalling and some other cellular processes. These results suggest that the aberrant of gene expression patterns detected in the oocytes of NOs compared with COCs explains their reduced quality in terms of development and maturation. In conclusion, these differentially expressed mRNAs may be involved in cellular interactions between oocytes and cumulus cells and thus could be considered as essential genes for the competence of oocytes.