Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) signaling is mediated by a complex of type I (TBRI) and type II (TBRII) receptors. The type III receptor (TBRIII) lacks a recognizable signaling domain and has no clearly defined role in TGF-beta signaling. Cardiac endothelial cells that undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transformation express TBRIII, and here TBRIII-specific antisera were found to inhibit mesenchyme formation and migration in atrioventricular cushion explants. Misexpression of TBRIII in nontransforming ventricular endothelial cells conferred transformation in response to TGF-beta2. These results support a model where TBRIII localizes transformation in the heart and plays an essential, nonredundant role in TGF-beta signaling.