Cells in the dorsal marginal zone of the amphibian embryo acquire the potential for mesoderm formation during the first few hours following fertilization. An examination of those early cell interactions may therefore provide insight on the mechanisms important for organization of axial structures. The formation of mesoderm (notochord, somites, and pronephros) was studied by combining blastomeres from the animal pole region of Xenopus embryos (32- to 512-cell stages) with blastomeres from different regions of the vegetal hemisphere. The frequency of notochord and somite development was similar in combinations made with dorsal or ventral blastomeres, or with both. Our results show that during early cleavage stages the ventral half of the vegetal hemisphere has the potential to organize axial structures, a property previously believed to be limited to the dorsal region.