We identified three novel genes that were expressed within the anterior non-neural ectoderm of Xenopus early neurula embryos. The expression of these genes was observed in the different areas complementary to the expression zone of a homeodomain gene Xanf-1 in the anterior neural plate. One of these genes, a Ras-like GTP-ase Ras-dva, marked the anterior placodal ectoderm area; a second, an Agr family homologous gene, XAgr2, was expressed in the anterior-most ectoderm in the cement gland primordium, and a third, novel gene Nlo was expressed in the lateral neural folds. The genes were transiently expressed in the developing cement and hatching gland primordia, and repressed in the mature cement and hatching glands. XAgr2 and Nlo were also expressed in the otic vesicles, and Ras-dva was expressed in the dorso-lateral column of the neural tube.