Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) regulate gene expression in response to hypoxia and in vertebrates they are known to participate in several developmental processes, including angiogenesis, vasculogenesis, heart and central nervous system development. Over the last decade, major progress in unraveling the molecular mechanisms that mediate regulation of HIF proteins by oxygen tension has been reported, but our knowledge on their developmental regulation during embryogenesis in model organisms is limited. Expression of hif-1alpha and hif-2alpha genes has been characterized during normal mouse development and they were found to be expressed from stages E7.5, later in E9.5 and E15.5 in several different tissues such as the brain, heart and blood vessels. However, there is no detailed temporal information on their expression at other embryonic stages, even though orthologous genes have been described in several different vertebrate species. In this study, we describe the cloning and detailed expression pattern of zebrafish hif-1alpha and hif-2alpha genes. Sequence analysis revealed that zebrafish Hif proteins are highly homologous to other vertebrate orthologues. Zebrafish hif-1alpha and hif-2alpha are both expressed throughout development in discrete territories in a dynamic pattern. Interestingly, in the notochord the expression of hif-1alpha is switched off, while hif-2alpha transcription is turned on, signifying that the two genes might have partially overlapping, although non-redundant functions in development. This is the first time that a detailed comparison of the expression of hif-1alpha and hif-2alpha is directly assessed in a vertebrate model system throughout development.