In the human ovary, early in pre-natal life, oocytes are surrounded by pre-granulosa follicular cells to form primordial follicles. These primordial oocytes remain dormant, often for decades, until recruited into the growing pool throughout a woman's adult reproductive years. Activation of follicle growth and subsequent development of growing oocytes in pre-antral follicles are major biological checkpoints that determine an individual females reproductive potential. In the past decade, great strides have been made in the elucidation of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning maintenance of the quiescent primordial follicle pool and initiation and development of follicle growth. Gaining an in-depth knowledge of the intracellular signalling systems that control oocyte preservation and follicle activation has significant implications for improving female reproductive productivity and alleviating infertility. It also has application in domestic animal husbandry, feral animal population control and contraception in women.