The signals which induce vertebrate neural tissue and pattern it along the anterior-posterior (A-P) axis have been proposed to emanate from Spemann's organizer, which in mammals is a structure termed the node. However, mouse embryos mutant for HNF3 beta lack a morphological node and node derivatives yet undergo neural induction. Gene expression domains occur at their normal A-P axial positions along the mutant neural tubes in an apparently normal temporal manner, including the most anterior and posterior markers. This neural patterning occurs in the absence of expression of known organizer genes, including the neural inducers chordin and noggin. Other potential signaling centers in gastrulating mutant embryos appear to express their normal constellation of putative secreted factors, consistent with the possibility that neural-inducing and -patterning signals emanate from elsewhere or at an earlier time. Nevertheless, we find that the node and the anterior primitive streak, from which the node derives, are direct sources of neural-inducing signals, as judged by expression of the early midbrain marker Engrailed, in explant-recombination experiments. Similar experiments showed the neural-inducing activity in HNF3 beta mutants to be diffusely distributed. Our results indicate that the mammalian organizer is capable of neural induction and patterning of the neural plate, but that maintenance of an organizer-like signaling center is not necessary for either process.