Genomic and cDNA sequences coding for two cellular retinol-binding proteins (rbp) in zebrafish were retrieved from DNA sequence databases. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that these proteins were most similar to mammalian RBP7/Rbp7 proteins. Hence, the genes coding for these proteins were named rbp7a and rbp7b. Using a radiation hybrid panel, rbp7a and rbp7b were mapped to the zebrafish chromosomes 23 and 6, respectively. Conserved gene synteny indicated that these genes most likely arose as a result of a fish-specific whole genome duplication event that had occurred 230-400 million years ago. Whole-mount in situ hybridization to zebrafish embryos detected rbp7a transcripts from the sphere stage (4 hours post-fertilization (hpf)) in the forerunner cells and the yolk syncytial layer, as well as in Kuppfer's vesicle and the periderm at 12 hpf. The transcripts of rbp7b were seen primarily in the somite stages (10-24 hpf) of zebrafish embryos, but also in the floor plate and hypochord, and did not overlap with the distribution of rbp7a transcripts in embryos. The hybridization signal for rbp7a and rbp7b transcripts was not detected in embryos after 12 hpf and 24 hpf, respectively. While transcripts for both rbp7a and rbp7b were found in all adult tissues assayed by RT-qPCR, the steady-state level of rbp7a transcripts were significantly higher than that of rbp7b transcripts in gill and ovary, whereas rbp7b transcripts were significantly higher than rbp7a transcripts in muscle and brain. The distribution of rbp7a and rbp7b transcripts in embryos and adult zebrafish indicate that the cis-elements that control the transcriptional regulation of the rbp7a and rbp7b genes have diverged considerably since their duplication.