The movement of the dorsal mesoderm across the blastocoel roof of the Xenopus gastrula is examined. We show that different parts of the mesoderm which can be distinguished by their morphogenetic behavior in the embryo are all able to migrate independently on the inner surface of the blastocoel roof. The direction of mesoderm cell migration is determined by guidance cues in the extracellular matrix of the blastocoel roof and by an intrinsic tissue polarity of the mesoderm. The mesodermal polarity shows the same orientation as the external guidance cues and is strongly expressed in the more posterior mesoderm. The guidance cues of the extracellular matrix are recognized by all parts of the dorsal mesoderm and even by nonmesodermal cells from other regions of the embryo. The extracellular matrix consists of a network of fibronectin-containing fibrils. The adhesiveness of this matrix does not vary along the axis of mesoderm movement, excluding haptotaxis as a guidance mechanism in this system. However, an intact fibronectin fibril structure is necessary for directional mesoderm cell migration. When the assembly of fibronectin into fibrils is inhibited, mesoderm explants still migrate on the amorphous extracellular matrix, but no longer directionally. It is proposed that polarized extracellular matrix fibrils may normally guide the migrating mesoderm to its target region.