We have characterized and mapped the zebrafish ptf1a gene, analyzed its embryonic expression, and studied its role in pancreas development. In situ hybridization experiments show that from the 12-somite stage to 48 hpf, ptf1a is dynamically expressed in the spinal cord, hindbrain, cerebellum, retina, and pancreas of zebrafish embryos. Within the endoderm, ptf1a is initially expressed at 32 hpf in the ventral portion of the pdx1 expression domain; ptf1a is expressed in a subset of cells located on the left side of the embryo posteriorly to the liver primordium and anteriorly to the endocrine islet that arises from the posterodorsal pancreatic anlage. Then the ptf1a expression domain buds giving rise to the anteroventral pancreatic anlage that grows posteriorly to eventually engulf the endocrine islet. By 72 hpf, ptf1a continues to be expressed in the exocrine compartment derived from the anteroventral anlage. Morpholino-induced ptf1a loss of function suppresses the expression of the exocrine markers, while the endocrine markers in the islet are unaffected. In mind bomb (mib) mutants, in which delta-mediated notch signalling is defective [Dev. Cell 4 (2003) 67], ptf1a is normally expressed. In addition, the slow-muscle-omitted (smu) mutants that lack expression of endocrine markers because of a defective hedgehog signalling [Curr. Biol. 11(2001) 1358] exhibit normal levels of ptf1a. This indicates that hedgehog signaling plays a different genetic role in the specification of the anteroventral (mostly exocrine) and posterodorsal (endocrine) pancreatic anlagen.