Mesoderm development in Xenopus laevis depends on inductive cell interactions mediated by diffusible molecules. The mesoderm inducer activin is capable of redirecting the development of animal explants both morphologically and biochemically. We have studied the induction of four regulatory genes, Mix. 1, goosecoid (gsc), Xlim-1, and Xbra in such explants by activin, and the influence of other factors on this induction. Activin induction of gsc is strongly enhanced by dorsalization of the embryo by LiCl, while expression of the other genes is only slightly enhanced. The protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide (CHX) inhibits the activin-dependent induction of Xbra partially, while induction of Mix. 1 and Xlim-1 is essentially unaffected. In contrast, gsc shows strong superinduction in the presence of activin and CHX, and can be induced in animal explants by CHX alone. Induction and superinduction by CHX have previously been observed for immediate early genes in a variety of systems, notably for the activation of c-fos expression by serum stimulation, but have not been reported in early amphibian embryos.