Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis and its role in embryonic development is not completely understood. In zebrafish, survivin undergoes gene duplication. Survivin1 (sur1) has been shown to mediate angiogenesis but not hematopoiesis. In this study, we examined survivin2 (sur2) with particular reference to its role in primitive hematopoiesis during zebrafish development. sur2 was expressed predominantly in the intermediate cell mass (ICM, site of primitive hematopoiesis). Morpholino (MO) targeting at intron1-exon2 junction of sur2 significantly reduced green fluorescent protein(+) (erythroid) cell population in transgenic Tg (gata1:gfp) embryos at 18 h post-fertilization (h.p.f.; wild type: 4.49+/-0.15%; Sur2(MO) embryos: 2.22+/-0.12%, P=0.02). Molecular targeting was confirmed by reverse transcription-PCR and MO specificity by successful sur2 mRNA rescue. sur2 MO also downregulated genes associated with hematopoietic stem cells (scl, lmo2), erythroid (gata1, alpha- and beta-embryonic hemoglobins) as well as early (pu.1) and late (mpo, l-plastin) myelomonocytic lineages at 12 and 18 h.p.f. This was associated with an increase in apoptosis in the ICM and alteration of cell-cycle status of erythroid cells. Both effects were caspase dependent. In conclusion, sur2 is important in maintaining hematopoietic stem and lineage committed cells during zebrafish development, by virtue of its antiapoptotic activity in a caspase dependent and cell autonomous fashion.