In the ovarian follicle, oocyte-secreted factors induce cumulus-specific genes and repress mural granulosa cell specific genes to establish these functionally distinct cell lineages. The mechanism establishing this precise morphogenic pattern of oocyte signaling within the follicle is unknown. The present study investigated a role for heparan sulphate proteoglycans (HSPG) as coreceptors mediating oocyte secreted factor signaling. In vitro maturation of cumulus oocyte complexes in the presence of exogenous heparin, which antagonizes HSPG signaling, prevented cumulus expansion and blocked the induction of cumulus-specific matrix genes, Has2 and Tnfaip6, whereas conversely, the mural granulosa-specific genes, Lhcgr and Cyp11a1, were strongly up-regulated. Heparin also blocked phosphorylation of SMAD2. Exogenous growth differentiation factor (GDF)-9 reversed these heparin effects; furthermore, GDF9 strongly bound to heparin sepharose. These observations indicate that heparin binds endogenous GDF9 and disrupts interaction with heparan sulphate proteoglycan coreceptor(s), important for GDF9 signaling. The expression of candidate HSPG coreceptors, Syndecan 1-4, Glypican 1-6, and Betaglycan, was examined. An ovulatory dose of human chorionic gonadotropin down-regulated Betaglycan in cumulus cells, and this regulation required GDF9 activity; conversely, Betaglycan was significantly increased in luteinizing mural granulosa cells. Human chorionic gonadotropin caused very strong induction of Syndecan 1 and Syndecan 4 in mural granulosa as well as cumulus cells. Glypican 1 was selectively induced in cumulus cells, and this expression appeared dependent on GDF9 action. These data suggest that HSPG play an essential role in GDF9 signaling and are involved in the patterning of oocyte signaling and cumulus cell function in the periovulatory follicle.