Three zebrafish otx homeoproteins containing a homeodomain homologous to that of the Drosophila orthodenticle head gap gene product have been identified by cloning and sequencing of cDNAs. The zebrafish otx2 homeoprotein shares high amino-acid sequence identity with the mouse Otx2 homeoprotein, whereas the zebrafish otx1 and otx3 homeoproteins exhibit moderate homology with the mouse Otx1 and Otx2 homeoproteins. Three otx homeoprotein mRNAs show different spatio-temporal expression patterns during zebrafish embryogenesis as revealed by Northern blot and whole mount in situ hybridization analyses. Large amounts of the otx1 homeoprotein mRNA are found in fertilized uncleaving eggs. The otx3 homeoprotein mRNA appears in the embryonic shield, the site of the organizer. In the developing brain, three zebrafish otx mRNAs are distributed in the diencephalon and the midbrain, but their fine expression patterns are different. These results suggest that three zebrafish otx homeoproteins, alone or in combination, may play roles in very early embryogenesis, gastrulation, and the development and subdivision of the diencephalon and the midbrain.