In the amphibian Xenopus laevis, the elongation factor 1 alpha proteins (EF-1 alpha) synthesised in oocytes and somatic cells correspond to distinct gene products. Furthermore, the somatic EF-1 alpha gene (EF-1 alpha S) produces one of the most highly expressed early zygotic transcripts in the embryo. The functional recycling of EF-1 alpha (conversion of EF-1 alpha-GDP to EF-1 alpha-GTP) is assured by the EF-1 beta gamma complex. We show here that in Xenopus laevis embryos, contrary to the situation for EF-1 alpha, EF-1 beta, and EF-1 gamma mRNAs are transcribed from the same genes in oocytes and somatic cells. In addition, the onset of transcription of the EF-1 beta and EF-1 gamma genes from the zygotic genome occurs several hours after that of the somatic EF-1 alpha S gene. Therefore, during early Xenopus development the expression of these three elongation factors is not co-ordinated at the transcriptional level. The consequences of this uncoupling on the efficiency of translational elongation in the early Xenopus embryo are discussed.