At the end of gastrulation in avians and mammals, the endoderm germ layer is an undetermined sheet of cells. Over the next 24-48 h, endoderm forms a primitive tube and becomes regionally specified along the anterior-posterior axis. Fgf4 is expressed in gastrulation and somite stage embryos in the vicinity of posterior endoderm that gives rise to the posterior gut. Moreover, the posterior endoderm adjacent to Fgf4-expressing mesoderm expresses the FGF-target genes Sprouty1 and 2 suggesting that endoderm respond to an FGF signal in vivo. Here, we report the first evidence suggesting that FGF4-mediated signaling is required for establishing gut tube domains along the A-P axis in vivo. At the gastrula stage, exposing endoderm to recombinant FGF4 protein results in an anterior shift in the Pdx1 and CdxB expression domains. These expression domains remain sensitive to FGF4 levels throughout early somite stages. Additionally, FGF4 represses the anterior endoderm markers Hex1 and Nkx2.1 and disrupts foregut morphogenesis. FGF signaling directly patterns endoderm and not via a secondary induction from another germ layer, as shown by expression of dominant-active FGFR1 specifically in endoderm, which results in ectopic anterior expression of Pdx1. Loss-of-function studies using the FGF receptor antagonist SU5402 demonstrate that FGF signaling is necessary for establishing midgut gene expression and for maintaining gene expression boundaries between the midgut and hindgut from gastrulation through somitogenesis. Moreover, FGF signaling in the primitive streak is necessary to restrict Hex1 expression to anterior endoderm. These data show that FGF signaling is critical for patterning the gut tube by promoting posterior and inhibiting anterior endoderm cell fate. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.