Here we describe experiments detailing the developmental expression, and the inducibility by all-trans retinoic acid (RA) of six members of the Xenopus Hox-2 complex of homeobox-containing genes. We first report the cloning and characterisation of two novel Xenopus Hox-2 genes (Xhox2.7 and Xhox2.9), and provide evidence that the six genes studied are indeed closely linked in the same chromosomal complex. We next show that all six genes are expressed in a spatial sequence which is colinear with their putative 3' to 5' chromosomal sequence and that five of them are also expressed in a 3' to 5' colinear temporal sequence. The sixth gene (Xhox2.9) has an exceptional spatial and temporal expression pattern. The six genes all respond to RA by showing altered spatiotemporal expression patterns, and are also hyperinduced by RA, with a sequence of magnitudes which is colinear with their 3' to 5' chromosomal sequence and with their spatial and temporal expression sequences. Our data also suggest a pre-existing anteroposterior polarity in the embryo's competence to respond to RA. These results complement and extend previous findings made using murine and avian embryos and mammalian cell lines. They suggest a mechanism whereby an endogenous retinoid could help to provide positional information in the early embryo.