Multiple Xhox 36 transcripts accumulate in Xenopus embryos from gastrula to early tadpole stages. The transcripts were characterized by sequencing cDNA clones and by S1 protection and Northern (RNA) blotting of embryonic RNA with probes derived from the cDNAs. The Xhox 36 RNAs included unspliced precursor transcripts that accumulated in the embryonic nuclei, spliced transcripts that contained multiple stop codons in frame with the homeobox, and less abundant coding mRNAs. These transcripts were generated either by alternative splicing or multiple initiations from a single Xhox 36 gene. The sequence of a cDNA clone of the unspliced transcript showed that the intron contained a noncanonical 3' splice site. However, the intron was spliced efficiently when expressed from a plasmid injected into Xenopus embryos, suggesting that the inefficient splicing of the endogenous RNA is not due to the unusual 3' splice site. The accumulation of noncoding and unspliced transcripts suggests multiple levels of regulation in the embryonic expression of the Xhox 36 gene.