Notch, Delta and Serrate encode transmembrane proteins that function in cell fate specification in the Drosophila melanogaster embryo. Here we report gene expression patterns and functional characterization of a Xenopus Serrate homolog, X-Serrate-1. The isolated cDNA encoded a transmembrane protein with a Delta/Serrate/LAG-2 domain, 16 epidermal growth factor-like repeats and a cysteine-rich region. Expression of X-Serrate-1 was observed ubiquitously from unfertilized egg to tadpole, but an upregulation occurred in the tailbud stage embryo. Adult expression was found in eye, brain, kidney, heart, spleen and ovary. Whole-mount in situ hybridization revealed that the organ-related expression in eye, brain, heart and kidney occurred from an early stage of rudiment formation. Overexpression of X-Serrate-1 led to a reduction of primary neurons, whereas an intracellularly deleted form of X-Serrate-1 increased the number of primary neurons. Although the function of X-Serrate-1 in primary neurogenesis was quite similar to that of X-Delta-1, expression of X-Serrate-1 and X-Delta-1 did not affect each other. Co-injection experiments showed that wild-type X-Serrate-1 and X-Delta-1 suppressed overproduction of primary neurons induced by dominant-negative forms of X-Delta-1 and X-Serrate-1, respectively. These results suggest that X-Serrate-1 regulates the patterning of primary neurons in a complementary manner with X-Delta-1-mediated Notch signaling.