A chimeric construct, termed 3243H7, composed of fused portions of the rat gap junction proteins connexin32 (Cx32) and connexin43 (Cx43) has been shown to have selective dominant inhibitory activity when tested in the Xenopus oocyte pair system. Co-injection of mRNA coding for 3243H7 together with mRNAs coding for Cx32 or Cx43 completely blocked the development of channel conductances, while the construct was ineffective at blocking intercellular channel assembly when coinjected with rat connexin37 (Cx37). Injection of 3243H7 into the right anterodorsal blastomere of 8-cell-stage Xenopus embryos resulted in disadhesion and delamination of the resultant clone of cells evident by embryonic stage 8; a substantial number, although not all, of the progeny of the injected cell were eliminated from the embryo by stage 12. A second construct, 3243H8, differing from 3243H7 in the relative position of the middle splice, had no dominant negative activity in the oocyte pair assay, nor any detectable effects on Xenopus development, even when injected at four-fold higher concentrations. The 3243H7-induced embryonic defects could be rescued by coinjection of Cx37 with 3243H7. A blastomere reaggregation assay was used to demonstrate that a depression of dye-transfer could be detected in 3243H7-injected cells as early as stage 7; Lucifer yellow injections into single cells also demonstrated that injection of 3243H7 resulted in a block of intercellular communication. These experiments indicate that maintenance of embryonic cell adhesion with concomitant positional information requires gap junction-mediated intercellular communication.