We have cloned and sequenced a new member of the fibroblast growth factor family from Xenopus laevis embryo cDNA. It is most closely related to both mammalian kFGF (FGF-4) and FGF-6 but as it is not clear whether it is a true homologue of either of these genes we provisionally refer to it as XeFGF (Xenopus embryonic FGF). Two sequences were obtained, differing by 11% in derived amino acid sequence, which probably represent pseudotetraploid variants. Both the sequence and the behaviour of in vitro translated protein indicates that, unlike bFGF (FGF-2), XeFGF is a secreted molecule. Recombinant XeFGF protein has mesoderm-inducing activity with a specific activity similar to bFGF. XeFGF mRNA is expressed maternally and zygotically with a peak during the gastrula stage. Both probe protection and in situ hybridization showed that the zygotic expression is concentrated in the posterior of the body axis and later in the tailbud. Later domains of expression were found near the midbrain/hindbrain boundary and at low levels in the myotomes. Because of its biological properties and expression pattern, XeFGF is a good candidate for an inducing factor with possible roles both in mesoderm induction at the blastula stage and in the formation of the anteroposterior axis at the gastrula stage.

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