Mesoderm induction and patterning are mediated by members of the TGFbeta superfamily. We have isolated a novel zebrafish member, antivin, that structurally is highly related to mouse lefty. Overexpression of antivin completely abolishes mesoderm induction at blastula stage, yet resultant embryos develop well-patterned epidermal and neural derivatives. The mesoderm-inhibiting activity of antivin can be mimicked by lefty and is suppressed by increasing levels of the mesodermal inducer Activin or its receptors. On the basis of its expression and activity, we propose that Antivin normally functions as a competitive inhibitor of Activin to limit mesoderm induction in the early embryo.