Xenopus follistatin and activins were purified from a Xenopus laevis cell line (XTC-F1) by four purification steps consisting of consecutive affinity chromatography on dextran sulfate-Sepharose and Sulfate Cellulofine, fast protein liquid chromatography gel permeation, and reverse-phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Our results thus obtained indicated that almost equimolar amounts of activins A, AB, and B were found to be present as a complex with follistatin (activin-binding protein) in the conditioned medium of XTC-F1 cells. Reverse-phase HPLC of the complex gave Xenopus follistatin and activins A, AB, and B. The purified Xenopus follistatin showed four major bands in a molecular mass range from 34 to 39 kDa by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis under nonreducing conditions. The ability of each form of the protein to specifically bind activin was determined by activin-binding assay and ligand blotting analysis. Each protein was found to have the same NH2-terminus and its sequence was very homologous to that of mammalian follistatin. Several criteria including immunoblotting analysis and various functional assays revealed the existence of three isoforms of activins A, AB, and B in Xenopus, as in mammals. Xenopus activins significantly induced both ventral and dorsal mesoderm in explants of Xenopus blastula cells that would otherwise form epidermis. In a dose-dependent manner of each isoform of activin, the induced explants were able to differentiate into blood-like cells, coelomic epithelium, mesenchyme, muscle, and notochord. The induction patterns of three Xenopus activins were essentially the same. The mesoderm induction by the purified Xenopus activins was shown to be inhibited stoichiometrically by the purified Xenopus follistatin. These results indicate that Xenopus XTC-F1 cells secrete several molecular forms of follistatin/activin-binding protein and three isoforms of activins AB and B in addition to activin A.