Previous experiments have shown that mRNA translation in frog oocytes can be inhibited by the injection of a complementary antisense RNA. Here we explore the use of antisense RNAs to study the functions of localized maternal mRNAs during postfertilization development. While developmental abnormalities were observed in injected fertilized eggs, these abnormalities could not be attributed to the antisense RNA since they were induced at a similar frequency in control embryos. Biochemical tests show that the injected antisense RNA does not form stable hybrids in vivo with its complementary endogenous mRNA. In addition, a novel activity that unwinds RNA:RNA duplexes was found. This activity exists at high levels in eggs and early embryos and is absent or very much diminished in oocytes and late blastula embryos. These results suggest that antisense RNAs may be of limited use in studying the functions of maternal RNAs in Xenopus.