In order to understand the role of the transcription factor GATA 3 in vertebrate development, we have examined its expression and some aspects of its regulation during gastrulation and neurulation in the zebrafish. The complete coding sequence of the cDNA encoding the zebrafish GATA 3 homologue, termed gta3, is described. Analysis of expression patterns by in situ hybridisation shows the gene to be expressed during gastrulation in the ventral region of the embryo which includes tissue fated to form the non-neural ectoderm. By the end of gastrulation, there is a clear border to the gta3 expression domain that is close to the edge of the neural plate. Subsequently, gta3 expresses in the pronephric duct and in defined regions of the central nervous system which include specific cells in each segment of the spinal cord and nuclei in the brain. Double labelling embryos with a probe for gta3 and antibodies which identify differentiated neurons suggest that gta3 is dynamically expressed during the early differentiation phase of a subset of neurons but not in the terminal phase. Analysis of gta3 expression in dorsalised embryos and in cyc and spt mutant embryos indicates that the neural expression of the gene is subject to control by signals from the mesoderm, including both the notochord and the somites, which influence the segmental organisation of expression in the spinal cord.