The erythroid differentiation capacity of the HPLC-purified mesoderm- and endoderm-inducing vegetalizing factor from chicken embryos and of recombinant erythroid differentiation factor (EDF = activin A), an evolutionary highly conserved member of the TGF-beta protein superfamily have been compared. Both factors stimulate the synthesis of hemoglobin in erythroleukemia cells in the same concentration range. The EDF-activity of the mesoderm-inducing HPLC-fractions is inhibited by follistatin, an EDF-binding protein. The factor induces in ectoderm of Triturus taeniatus all kinds of mesodermal organs. The wide spectrum of organs is very likely to be induced by secondary interactions. At higher concentration (15 ng/ml), notochord- and endoderm-like tissues are induced in a high percentage.