In vertebrates the developing hindbrain is organized in segmental units. These units provide the primary grid for differentiation and axonal outgrowth. In the more anterior regions of the brain, however, the subdivisions remain more controversial. Cellular and molecular studies of the embryonic brain in lower vertebrates such as the zebrafish, Brachydanio rerio, may reveal remnants of such subdivisions. We have isolated complementary DNA clones for two zebrafish pax genes related to Drosophila and mouse paired-box-containing segmentation genes. The expression of these two genes is confined to specific regions in the embryonic forebrain and midbrain. Strikingly, the borders of expression of the two pax genes coincide with morphological landmarks corresponding to the primary axon tracts that are generated in the embryonic brain a few hours after the initiation of expression of these genes.