The process of cumulus cell expansion is critical for normal fertility. Oocyte-produced growth and differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) has been thought to play a leading role in this process. Recent studies both support and refute this hypothesis. Central to understanding the physiology of GDF9 is the use of recombinant ligand in in vitro assays. There are several laboratories that currently produce recombinant GDF9 preparations that appear to show variable effects on granulosa cell gene expression and cumulus cell expansion. Several of these studies are reviewed here. Standardization in preparation for recombinant GDF9, as well as a more biochemical analysis of the oocyte-secreted forms of GDF9, may help to resolve the conflicts currently seen in the literature.