By comparing cells with respect to several motility-related properties and the ability to migrate on fibronectin, three cell types can be distinguished in the Xenopus gastrula. These occur in a distinct spatial pattern, thus defining three motility domains which do not correspond to the prospective germ layers. Migratory behavior is confined to a region encompassing the anterior mesoderm and endoderm. When stationary animal cap cells are induced to migrate by treatment with activin, cells become adhesive at low concentrations of fibronectin, show polarized protrusive activity, and form lamellipodia. Adhesion and polarization, but not lamellipodia formation, are mimicked by the immediate early response gene Mix.1. Goosecoid, another immediate early gene, is without effect when expressed alone in animal cap cells, but it acts synergistically with Mix.1 in the control of adhesion, and antagonistically in the polarization of protrusive activity. bFGF also induces migration, lamellipodia formation and polarization in animal cap cells, but has no effect on adhesion. By the various treatments of animal cap cells, new combinations of motile properties can be generated, yielding cell types which are not found in the embryo.