X. laevis stage VI oocytes respond differently from unfertilized eggs when injected with the genes for X. laevis embryonic U1 RNAs, xU1b1, and xU1b2. Upon maturation of oocytes into eggs, the efficiency of transcription decreases greatly and the ratio of xU1b1 to xU1b2 RNA transcription changes. Moreover, DNA replication is now required for transcription. Because of differences in the 5'-flanking regions of the two xU1b genes, xU1b2 RNA transcription predominates after injection into oocytes; in contrast, xU1b1 RNA transcription predominates after injection into unfertilized eggs. Our results also indicate that in oocytes a factor that interacts with sequences close to the coding region is limiting, whereas in eggs a factor that recognizes far-upstream sequences required for enhancer activity is limiting. Qualitatively, expression of the embryonic xU1b genes injected into eggs closely resembles that of the endogenous genes during early embryogenesis.