To contribute to an understanding of the roles and mechanisms of action of Wnts in early vertebrate development, we have characterized the normal expression of Xenopus laevis Wnt-5A, and investigated the consequences of misexpression of this putative signalling factor. Xwnt-5A transcripts are expressed throughout development, and are enriched in both the anterior and posterior regions of embryos at late stages of development, where they are found primarily in ectoderm, with lower levels of expression in mesoderm. Overexpression of Xwnt-5A in Xenopus embryos leads to complex malformations distinct from those achieved by ectopic expression of Xwnts −1, −3A, or −8. This phenotype is unlikely to result from Xwnt-5A acting as an inducing agent, as overexpression of Xwnt-5A does not rescue dorsal structures in UV-irradiated embryos, does not induce mesoderm in blastula caps, and Xwnt-5A does not alter the endogenous patterns of expression of goosecoid, Xbra, or Xwnt-8. To pursue whether Xwnt-5A has the capacity to affect morphogenetic movements, we investigated whether overexpression of Xwnt-5A alters the normal elongation of blastula cap explants induced by activin. Intriguingly, Xwnt-5A blocks the elongation of blastula caps in response to activin, without blocking the differentiation of either dorsal or ventral mesoderm within these explants. The data are consistent with Xwnt-5A having the potential activity of modifying the morphogenetic movements of tissues.