Mesencephalic astrocyte derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) is recognized as a dopaminergic neurotrophic factor, which can protect dopaminergic neurons from neurotoxic damage. However, little is known about the function of MANF during the vertebrate development. Here, we report that MANF expression is widespread during embryonic development and in adult organs analyzed by qPCR and in situ hybridization in zebrafish. Knockdown of MANF expression with antisense splice-blocking morpholino oligonucleotides resulted in no apparent abnormal phenotype. Nevertheless, the dopamine level of MANF morphants was lower than that of the wild type larvae, the expression levels of the two tyrosine hydroxylase gene transcripts were decreased and a decrease in neuron number in certain groups of th1 and th2 cells in the diencephalon region in MANF morphants was observed. These defects were rescued by injection of exogenous manf mRNA. Strikingly, manf mRNA could partly restore the decrease of th1 positive cells in Nr4a2-deficient larvae. These results suggest that MANF is involved in the regulation of the development of dopaminergic system in zebrafish.