In the frog Xenopus laevis, signals from the mesoderm divert part of the ectoderm from an epidermal to a neural fate. In the course of neural induction, the neurectoderm also acquires anterior-posterior polarity. In this report, the early expression of two genes, XlHbox6 and the neurofilament gene XIF6, is examined. The pattern of expression of the two genes seen in the tailbud embryo develops progressively over a 4 hr period following gastrulation. Physiological concentrations of retinoic acid can mimic this effect in isolated embryonic explants, consistent with the involvement of retinoic acid, or a closely related molecule, in localizing gene expression along the anterior-posterior axis of the neural tube.