In Xenopus, growth factors of the TGF-beta, FGF and Wnt oncogene families have been proposed to play a role in generating embryonic pattern. In this paper we examine potential interactions between the bFGF and Xwnt-8 signaling pathways in the induction and dorsal-ventral patterning of mesoderm. Injection of Xwnt-8 mRNA into 2-cell Xenopus embryos does not induce mesoderm formation in animal cap ectoderm isolated from these embryos at the blastula stage, but alters the response of this tissue to mesoderm induction by bFGF. While animal cap explants isolated from non-injected embryos differentiate to form ventral types of mesoderm and muscle in response to bFGF, explants from Xwnt-8 injected embryos form dorsal mesodermal and neural tissues in response to the same concentration of bFGF, even if the ectoderm is isolated from the prospective ventral sides of embryos or from UV-ventralized animals. Our results support a model whereby dorso-ventral mesodermal patterning can be attained by a single mesoderm inducing agent, possibly bFGF, which is uniformly distributed across the prospective dorsal-ventral axis, and which acts in concert with a dorsally localized signal, possibly a Wnt protein, which either alters the response of ectoderm to induction or modifies the character of mesoderm after its induction.