We have cloned and characterized the zebrafish (Danio rerio) homologous cytokeratin 8 (zf-K8) cDNA. This cytokeratin belongs to the gene family of intermediate filaments and it is a component of the cytoskeleton of epithelial cells. Gene expression analysis during embryonic development and at adult stages presented here revealed that zf-K8 mRNA is inherited maternally and that it is present in the oocyte, the zygote and in the cleavage stage embryo. After mid blastula transition this gene is expressed in all surface cells, notably in those of the enveloping layer (EVL) and of the periderm, as well as in a subpopulation of the deep cells (DEL) presumed to be intestinal progenitors. During later embryonic stage zf-K8 mRNA is strongly expressed in the developing pectoral fin. In adult zebrafish, the zf-K8 gene is not only expressed in simple epithelia such as the colorectal intestine, but also, in contrast to other vertebrates, it is present in stratified skin and differentiated fins. These observations suggest that the zf-K8 gene is an appropriate epidermal marker during zebrafish ontogenesis.