Nodal-related signals comprise a subclass of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily and regulate key events in vertebrate embryogenesis, including mesoderm formation, establishment of left-right asymmetry and neural patterning [1-8]. Nodal ligands are thought to act with EGF-CFC protein co-factors to activate activin type I and II or related receptors, which phosphorylate Smad2 and trigger nuclear translocation of a Smad2/4 complex [8-12]. The winged-helix transcription factor forkhead activin signal transducer-1 (Fast-1) acts as a co-factor for Smad2 [12-20]. Xenopus Fast-1 is thought to function as a transcriptional effector of Nodal signals during mesoderm formation , but no mutations in the Fast-1 gene have been identified. We report the identification of the zebrafish fast1 gene and show that it is disrupted in schmalspur (sur) mutants, which have defects in the development of dorsal midline cell types and establishment of left-right asymmetry [21-25]. We find that prechordal plate and notochord are strongly reduced in maternal-zygotic sur mutants, whereas other mesendodermal structures are present - a less severe phenotype than that caused by complete loss of Nodal signaling. These results show that fast1 is required for development of dorsal axial structures and left-right asymmetry, and suggest that Nodal signals act through Fast1-dependent and independent pathways.