A cDNA that encodes a new member of the TGF-beta superfamily most similar to activin beta A, beta B, and recently reported beta C has been isolated from Xenopus laevis. Expression of the gene in early embryos suggested its biological importance in Xenopus embryogenesis. Microinjection of a synthetic mRNA transcribed from the cDNA into ventral blastomeres of early Xenopus embryo led to the formation of secondary body axis. Mesodermal marker genes were induced in isolated animal cap by a similar mRNA injection. These results demonstrate that the gene encodes a new member of activin subfamily whose function is closely related to mesoderm induction.