To begin to examine the possibility that Wnt proteins act as cell signalling molecules during chick embryogenesis, PCR was used to identify Wnt genes expressed in Hensen's node. We have identified a novel member of the Wnt gene family, Cwnt-8C, which is expressed prior to gastrulation in the posterior marginal zone, the primitive streak and Hensen's node. Injection of Cwnt-8C mRNA into Xenopus embryos caused axis duplication and dorsalization of mesodermal tissues. During neurulation, Cwnt-8C is expressed transiently in a restricted domain of the prospective hindbrain neurectoderm that will give rise to rhombomere 4. This domain is defined prior to the formation of rhombomere boundaries and also precedes the up-regulation and restriction of expression of Hox B1 in the same region. Thus, Cwnt-8C is potentially involved in the regulation of axis formation and hindbrain patterning.