Bone morphogenetic protein 4 (Bmp4), a vertebrate homolog of Drosophila decapentaplegic (dpp), encodes a signaling protein with multiple functions during embryogenesis. Most mouse embryos homozygous for the Bmp4(tm1blh) null allele die around the time of gastrulation, with little or no mesoderm. Two independently derived Bmp4(tm1) mutations were backcrossed onto the C57BL/6 genetic background. Several independently expressed, incompletely penetrant abnormalities were observed in heterozygotes, including cystic kidney, craniofacial malformations, microphthalmia, and preaxial polydactyly of the right hindlimb. In addition, heterozygotes were consistently underrepresented at weaning. These results indicate that Bmp4 gene dosage is essential for the normal development of a variety of organs and for neonatal viability. Two mutations that enhance the penetrance and expressivity of the polydactylous phenotype were identified: Gli3(XtJ), a deletion mutation involving a gene encoding a zinc-finger protein related to Drosophila cubitus interruptus, and Alx4(tm1rwm), a targeted null mutation in a gene encoding a paired class homeoprotein related to Drosophila aristaless. All double Bmp4(tm1); Gli3(XtJ) heterozygotes have extensive anterior digit abnormalities of both fore- and hindlimbs, while all double Bmp4(tm1); Alx4(tm1) heterozygotes display ectopic anterior digits only on the hindlimbs. These genetic interactions suggest a model for the multigenic control of anterior digit patterning during vertebrate limb development.