Bacterially expressed, dual specificity phosphatase VHR protein induced germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) when microinjected into Xenopus oocytes, albeit with slower kinetics than that observed in progesterone- or insulin- induced maturation. A mutant VHR protein missing an essential cysteine residue for its in vitro phosphatase activity completely lacked activity in injected oocytes. VHR injection done in conjunction with progesterone or insulin treatment resulted in highly synergized GVBD responses showing much faster kinetics than that produced by VHR or either hormone alone. The delayed kinetics of VHR-induced GVBD and the synergistic responses obtained in the presence of hormones suggested that this protein may be promoting G2/M transition by weakly mimicking the action of cdc25, the dual specificity phosphatase that physiologically activates the maturation promotion factor. Various experimental observations are consistent with such a role for the injected VHR in oocytes: 1) as opposed to hormone-treated oocytes, histone H1 kinase activation is not preceded by MAPK activation in the process of GVBD in VHR-injected oocytes; 2) incubation of purified VHR with highly concentrated cell-free extracts of untreated oocytes resulted in activation of histone H1 kinase activity in the lysates; 3) coinjection of VHR with activated Ras proteins resulted in synergized responses, faster than those produced by either protein alone; 4) coinjection of VHR with the purified amino-terminal SH2 domain of the p85 subunit of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (which blocks insulin-induced GVBD) does not affect VHR-induced maturation. The biological actions of VHR in oocytes clearly distinguish it from other dual specificity phosphatases, which have shown inhibitory effects when tested in oocytes. We speculate that VHR may represent a dual specificity phosphatase responsible for activation of cdk-cyclin complex(es) at a still undetermined stage of the cell cycle.