Neural induction is the first step in the formation of the vertebrate central nervous system. The emerging consensus of the mechanisms underlying neural induction is the combined influences from inhibiting bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling and activating fibroblast growth factor (FGF)/Erk signaling, which act extrinsically via either autocrine or paracrine fashions. However, do intrinsic forces (cues) exist and do they play decisive roles in neural induction? These questions remain to be answered. Here, we have identified a novel neural initiator, neuronatin (Nnat), which acts as an intrinsic factor to promote neural fate in mammals and Xenopus. ESCs lacking this intrinsic factor fail to undergo neural induction despite the inhibition of the BMP pathway. We show that Nnat initiates neural induction in ESCs through increasing intracellular Ca(2+) ([Ca(2+) ](i)) by antagonizing Ca(2+) -ATPase isoform 2 (sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) -ATPase isoform 2) in the endoplasmic reticulum, which in turn increases the phosphorylation of Erk1/2 and inhibits the BMP4 pathway and leads to neural induction in conjunction with FGF/Erk pathway.