To investigate the conservation of mechanisms for mesodermal patterning between zebrafish and Xenopus, we isolated two cDNA clones encoding bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-related proteins from a zebrafish cDNA library. Based on their predicted amino acid sequences, these two clones were designated as zbmp-2 and zbmp-4. Whole-mount in situ hybridization analysis revealed that in gastrula embryo, both genes were localized in the ventral part of the embryo, consistent with the proposed function of Xenopus BMP-4 in ventral mesoderm specification. zbmp-4 expression, however, was also seen in the embryonic shield, the most dorsal mesodermal structure. To examine the ability of zbmp-2 to ventralize mesoderm, we injected synthetic mRNA into zebrafish embryos and found that overexpression of this gene eliminated dorsal structures including notochord at both morphological and molecular level. In contrast, expression of ventral marker gene eve1 was expanded to the dorsal side. These effects are analogous to the ventralization of embryos caused by ectopic xBMP-4 expression. Taken together, one may conclude that the developmental mechanisms for mesodermal patterning regulated by BMPs are evolutionarily conserved between amphibians and teleosts.