We have attempted to define the location and mode of action of axial determinants in the egg of Xenopus laevis. To this end, we transplanted small numbers of blastomeres from normal 64-cell stage embryos into synchronous recipient embryos which had been irradiated with ultraviolet light prior to first cleavage. Without transplantation, such embryos fail to develop dorsal structures of the embryonic body axis. We found that one to three blastomeres transplanted from the vegetal-most octet of cells can effect complete or partial rescue of of axis development in a recipient, provided that the donor cells derive from the quadrant just under the prospective dorsal marginal region. These same cells, when transplanted into the ventral vegetal quadrant of a normal 64-cell embryo, cause the formation of a complete second body axis. In contrast, other cells from the vegetal octet of normal donors fail to cause axis formation. When the rescuing donor cells are labeled with a lineage-restricted fluorescent marker, we find that their progeny do not contribute to the axial structures of the recipient. Progeny of the transplanted cells are found below the level of the blastopore in the early gastrula and eventually give rise to portions of the gut, as is their fate in normal development. These results, in agreement with those of Nieuwkoop (P.D. Nieuwkoop, 1977, Curr. Top. Dev. Biol. 11, 115-132), imply that the dorsal-most vegetal cells of the 64-cell embryo receive from the egg cytoplasm a set of determinants enabling them to induce neighboring cells to undertake axis formation. We discuss the relationship between axis induction in rescued irradiated embryos and axis determining processes in normal embryogenesis.