The MyoD-related genes code for key regulators of skeletal muscle commitment and differentiation. In this study, expression of MyoD protein has been examined during Xenopus development. Protein is first detected in presumptive mesoderm at early gastrulation, directly following a dramatic increase in MyoD transcription that occurs in response to mesoderm induction. The pattern of expression resembles the muscle fate map at this time. Protein accumulates synchronously along the future somite axis, with no evidence of a spatial regulation which would explain the anterior/posterior wave of myogenic differentiation that follows MyoD expression. During gastrulation, the highest levels of MyoD are in cells next to the developing notochord, suggesting a role for the notochord in induction or maintenance of MyoD expression. After muscle differentiation, MyoD protein is degraded with a half-life of several hours, leading to very low expression in mature somites. These studies support a role for MyoD in induction of muscle mesoderm, but also point to the multi-layered regulation of these events.