Gap junctions in the early amphibian embryo may play a fundamental role in the regulation of differentiation by mediating the cell-to-cell transfer of chemical signals. A complementary DNA encoding a gap junction present in Xenopus oocytes and early embryos has now been cloned and sequenced. This protein sequence is homologous to the well-characterized gap junction structural proteins rat connexin32 and connexin43. RNA blot analysis of total Xenopus oocyte RNA showed hybridization to a single 1.6-kilobase band. This messenger RNA is abundant in oocytes, decreases to levels below the sensitivity of our assay by stage 15 (18 hours), and is not detectable in RNA from a number of adult organs. To confirm that the oocyte cDNA encodes a gap junction channel, the protein was over expressed in Xenopus oocytes by injection of RNA synthesized in vitro. Pairs of RNA-injected oocytes formed many more time- and voltage-sensitive cell-cell channels than water-injected pairs.