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NKCC1 is a broadly expressed Na+–K+–Cl co-transporter involved in regulation of ion flux across the cell membrane and in regulating cell volume. Whilst much is known about the co-transporter activity of NKCC1 and its regulation by protein kinases and phosphatases, little is known about the activities of NKCC1 that are co-transporter independent. In this report we show that over-expression of NKCC1 in embryos of Xenopus laevis induces secondary axes, independently of its co-transporter activity. In addition, over-expression of NKCC1 results in the formation of neural tissue in ectodermal explants. We also show that NKCC1 is expressed broadly but non-uniformly in embryos of Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis, with prominent expression in the notochord, nervous system and stomach. These results provide insights into an additional, previously unreported activity of NKCCl.