The endodermal germ layer gives rise to the inner epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract, while that of the mesoderm gives rise to the outer smooth muscle layer. Much of the work in chick shows that the mesoderm plays an important role in endodermal differentiation, and recent results in Xenopus have begun to elucidate the factors involved in establishing endodermal cell fate. However, little is know about the signals responsible for the initial specification and pattern of the endoderm. In a recent paper, Wells and Melton have investigated the importance of early mesectodermal-endodermal interactions in the initial specification of the early mouse endoderm.(1) They demonstrate that the initial specification and differentiation of the endoderm does not occur cell-autonomously, but requires signals released from the mesectoderm.