In order to investigate the molecular events which take place during gastrulation, extracts from developing Xenopus embryos were analyzed for temporal peptide distribution by high performance liquid chromatography. One peptide peak which became increasingly dominant after gastrulation was purified and partially characterized. The amino acid sequence of enzymic digests showed the peptide is extremely similar to mammalian thymosin beta 4. The peptide was capable of binding actin monomers like mammalian counterparts. Cloning of the Xenopus thymosin beta 4 cDNA showed that only three amino acid substitutions occurred between amphibian and bovine. Northern blot analysis revealed the mRNA is maternally present at a low level and the transcript becomes abundant after gastrulation, supporting the distribution of the peptide.