Drosophila ELAV, a neuron-specific RNA binding protein, is expressed in all neurons right after their birth. This specific pattern of expression has led to its use as a pan-neuronal marker. At least three members of the elav family, HuD, HuC/ple21 and Hel-N1, have been reported to be neuron-specific in vertebrates, although it is unknown which member of this family is expressed at the time of early neuronal determination. We have isolated a zebrafish elav/HuC homologue (zHuC) which has 89% homology to human HuC protein. It is first expressed in the neuronal precursor cells in the neural plate immediately after gastrulation, and then high expression levels persist in most regions of the nervous system. HuC, like elav in Drosophila, may be one of the earliest neuronal markers in zebrafish.