A complete zebrafish mespo cDNA encoding a protein of 131 amino acids with a bHLH domain in the C-terminal has been isolated. The bHLH domain of zebrafish Mespo is highly similar to those in the mouse, chick and Xenopus, sharing 82.4%, 80.4% and 74.5% amino acid identity, respectively. At 50% epiboly, the zebrafish mespo is first detected in the marginal zone of the blastoderm but excluding the prospective shield. Subsequently, mespo expression is intensified in the involuting mesoderm at 60% epiboly, and then restricted to the presomitic mesoderm (PSM) at 95% epiboly. At the 1-somite stage, mespo expression becomes reduced in the most rostral PSM. During segmentation, mespo expression is gradually downregulated at the most rostral segmental plate where cells are being coalesced to form somites. In spadetail mutant embryos, most of mespo-expressing cells were missing.