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Bves/pop1a is a unique, highly conserved integral membrane protein expressed in embryonic epithelia and striated muscle. Although studies have proposed a role in epithelial morphogenesis, the function of Bves/pop1a in development is completely unknown. Here we show that Xenopus laevis Bves (Xbves) RNA and protein are expressed in epithelia of the early embryo. Transfection of Xbves into nonadherent mouse L cells confers cell/cell adhesion. Global inhibition of Xbves function by morpholino injection into two-cell embryos arrests development at gastrulation by deregulating the epithelial movements of epiboly and involution. Clonal inhibition of Xbves activity within the A1 blastomere and its derivatives completely randomizes movement of its progeny within otherwise normally differentiating embryos. These data demonstrate that Bves/pop1a proteins play a critical role in epithelial morphogenesis and, specifically, in the cell movements essential for epithelial rearrangements that occur during X. laevis development.