We have identified a number of type I and type II keratins in the zebrafish Danio rerio by two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, complementary keratin blot-binding assay and immunoblotting. These keratins range from 56 kDa to 46 kDa in molecular mass and from pH 6.6 to pH 5.2 in isoelectric point. Type II zebrafish keratins exhibit significantly higher molecular masses (56-52 kDa) compared with the type I keratins (50-48 kDa), but the isoelectric points show no significant difference between the two keratin subclasses (type II: pH 6.0-5.5; type I: pH 6.1-5.2). According to their occurrence in various zebrafish tissues, the identified keratins can be classified into "E" (epidermal) and "S" (simple epithelial) proteins. A panel of monoclonal anti-keratin antibodies has been used for immunoblotting of zebrafish cytoskeletal preparations and immunofluorescence microscopy of frozen tissue sections. These antibodies have revealed differential cytoplasmic expression of keratins; this not only includes epithelia, but also a variety of mesenchymally derived cells and tissues. Thus, previously detected fundamental differences in keratin expression patterns between higher vertebrates and a salmonid, the rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, also apply between vertebrates and the zebrafish, a cyprinid. However, in spite of notable similarities, trout and zebrafish keratins differ from each other in many details. The present data provide a firm basis from which the application of keratins as cell differentiation markers in the well-established genetic model organism, the zebrafish, can be developed.