Retinoic acid (RA) plays an important role in development of vertebrate embryos. We demonstrate impacts of exogenous RA on the formation of neural crest cells in zebrafish using specific neural crest markers sox9b and crestin. Treatment with all -trans RA at 10 7 mmol/L at 50% epiboly induces sox9b expression in the forebrain and crestin expression in the forebrain and midbrain, resulting in significant increase of pigment cells in the head derived from the cranial neural crest. In addition, RA treatment induces expression of sox9b and crestin in the caudal marginal cells of the neuroectoderm during early segmentation. Earlier commitment of these cells to the neural crest fate in the posterior margins leads to abnormal development of the posterior body, probably by preventing mingling of ventral derived and dorsal-derived cells during the formation of the tailbud.