The highly conserved neuropeptide pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) has been implicated in a broad variety of physiological processes. The PACAP precursor protein gives rise to three different peptides, the cryptic peptide, GHRH, and PACAP, respectively, and here we dissect their functional properties using Xenopus as model system. PACAP and GHRH but not the cryptic peptide directly neuralize animal caps. In contrast to GHRH, the neuralizing effect mediated by PACAP is independent of the PKA pathway. Moreover, PACAP but not GHRH behaves like a BMP-4 antagonist. Blastocoel injection of PACAP-38 but not of the closely related peptides PACAP-27 and VIP leads to strong anteriorization of the injected embryos suggesting the possible involvement of a novel PACAP-preferring receptor.