The Xenopus Vg1 gene encodes a maternal mRNA that is localized to the vegetal hemisphere of both oocytes and embryos and encodes a protein related to the TGF-beta family of small secreted growth factors. We have raised antibodies to recombinant Vg1 protein and used them to show that Vg1 protein is first detected in stage IV oocytes and reaches maximal levels in stage VI oocytes and eggs. During embryogenesis, Vg1 protein is synthesized until the gastrula stage. The embryonically synthesized Vg1 protein is present only in vegetal cells of an early blastula. We find that Vg1 protein is glycosylated and associated with membranes in the early embryo. Our results also suggest that a small proportion of the full-length Vg1 protein is cleaved to give a small peptide of M(r) = approximately 17 × 10(3). These results support the proposal that the Vg1 protein is an endogenous growth-factor-like molecule involved in mesoderm induction within the amphibian embryo.

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