This paper describes a continuing effort to define the location and mode of action of morphogenetic determinants which direct the development of dorsal body axis structures in embryos of the frog Xenopus laevis. Earlier results demonstrated that presumptive endodermal cells in one vegetal quadrant of the 64-cell embryo can, under certain experimental conditions, induce partial or complete body axis formation by progeny of adjacent equatorial cells. (R.L. Gimlich and J.C. Gerhart, 1984, Dev. Biol. 104, 117-130). I have now assessed the importance of other blastomeres for embryonic axis formation in a series of transplantation experiments using cells from the equatorial level of the 32-cell embryo. The transplant recipients were embryos which had been irradiated with ultraviolet light before first cleavage. Without transplantation, embryos failed to develop the dorsal structures of the embryonic body axis. However, cells of these recipients were competent to respond to inductive signals from transplanted tissue and to participate in normal embryogenesis. Dorsal equatorial cells, but not their lateral or ventral counterparts, often caused partial or complete body axis development in irradiated recipients, and themselves formed much of the notochord and some prechordal and somitic mesoderm. These are the same structures that they would have formed in the normal donor. Thus, the dorsal equatorial blastomeres were often at least partially autonomous in developing according to their prospective fates. In addition, they induced progeny of neighboring host cells to contribute to the axial mesoderm and to form most of the central nervous system. The frequency with which such transplants caused complete axis formation in irradiated hosts increased when they were made at later and later cleavage stages. In contrast, the inductive activity of vegetal cells remained the same or declined during the cleavage period. These and other results suggest that the egg cytoplasmic region containing "axial determinants" is distributed to both endodermal and mesodermal precursors in the dorsal-most quadrant of the early blastula.