The Wnt-1 (int-1) gene was originally identified as an oncogene, but its normal function is in embryogenesis. The gene is the vertebrate homologue of the Drosophila segment polarity gene wingless, and encodes a secretory protein. In mouse embryos, Wnt-1 expression is necessary for proper development of the midbrain and anterior hindbrain. Here we describe the molecular cloning and primary structure of the zebrafish Wnt-1 gene (denoted wnt-1). Comparison with its mouse homologue reveals that both the genomic organization of wnt-1 and the amino acid sequence of the corresponding gene product have been extensively conserved during vertebrate evolution. Moreover, there is probably at least one Wnt-1-related sequence in the zebrafish genome. In zebrafish embryos, wnt-1 is expressed during differentiation of the neural tube. In situ hybridization analysis reveals that the transcripts are confined to the dorsal surfaces of the midbrain, hindbrain and spinal cord, and to lateral cells at the midbrain-hindbrain junction. Thus, the pattern of wnt-1 expression in the developing central nervous system of zebrafish is virtually identical to that seen in mouse embryos. Unexpectedly, despite the striking similarities of Wnt-1 structure and expression in fish and higher vertebrates, we could not identify sequences of obvious homology outside the coding regions, neither in the promoter nor in the introns.