Many theories of neoplasia suggest that oncogenic transformations result from aberrations in the control mechanisms which normally regulate growth and differentiation during embryonic development. It has recently become clear that many proto-oncogenes are differentially expressed during embryonic development and may thus be important embryonic regulatory molecules. We report here that the products of two transforming oncogenes int-2 and hst/ks (now called kfgf) can, with different potencies, induce mesoderm formation in isolated Xenopus laevis animal pole explants and stimulate DNA synthesis in mammalian fibroblasts. The results suggest that these proteins may function as mesoderm inducers in mammalian embryogenesis and that similar receptor/signalling pathways may be utilized for developmental and oncogenic processes. Finally, we have shown that the Xenopus assay system used in this study provides a powerful screen for protein factors that are active in development.

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