The intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP) shows binding specificity for long-chain fatty acids and is proposed to be involved in uptake of dietary fatty acids and their intracellular transport. We have determined the sequence of the gene encoding I-FABP in zebrafish. The zebrafish I-FABP gene contains four exons interrupted by three introns. Radiation hybrid mapping assigned the I-FABP gene to linkage group 1. A 924 bp sequence 5' upstream of the initiation codon in the I-FABP gene contained several putative cis-acting regulatory elements. In adult zebrafish, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) detected I-FABP mRNA in intestine, brain, liver, muscle and testis. Quantitative RT-PCR demonstrated that I-FABP mRNA was most abundant in intestine, followed by brain. I-FABP mRNA levels were very low in muscle, testis, heart, liver, skin and ovary. RT-PCR using total RNA extracted from zebrafish embryos detected I-FABP mRNA as early as 12 h post-fertilization. Whole-mount in situ hybridization to zebrafish embryos detected I-FABP mRNA in the yolk syncytial layer (YSL) at early somitogenesis. Later during embryonic development the I-FABP mRNA was detected in the intestinal bulb, liver and pancreas primordium. Expression in YSL, liver or pancreas has not been previously reported for fish or mammalian I-FABP genes and may be related to specific physiological differences between fishes and mammals.