ErbB signaling has long been implicated in cancer formation and progression and is shown to regulate cell division, migration, and death during tumorigenesis. The functions of the ErbB pathway during early vertebrate embryogenesis, however, are not well understood. Here we report characterization of ErbB activities during early frog development. Gain-of-function analyses show that EGFR, ErbB2, and ErbB4 induce ectopic tumor-like cell mass that contains increased numbers of mitotic cells. Both the muscle and the neural markers are expressed in these ectopic protrusions. ErbBs also induce mesodermal markers in ectodermal explants. Loss-of-function studies using carboxyl terminal-truncated dominant-negative ErbB receptors demonstrate that blocking ErbB signals leads to defective gastrulation movements and malformation of the embryonic axis with a reduction in the head structures in early frog embryos. These data, together with the observation that ErbBs are expressed early during frog embryogenesis, suggest that ErbBs regulate cell proliferation, movements, and embryonic patterning during early Xenopus development. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.