Abstract Bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2) is a secreted signaling molecule that acts as an inducer of bone formation and a regulator of embryonic development. The objectives of this work were as follows: (1) to clone the full-length cDNA of BMP-2 in a marine fish model, (2) analyze its gene expression during development, in adult tissues and in cell lines, and (3) identify protein conserved features of vertebrate BMP-2. Using a combination of RT- and 5′-RACE-PCR, a 1653-bp fragment corresponding to Sparus aurata BMP-2 cDNA (SaBMP-2) was amplified. Levels of SaBMP-2 gene expression were estimated using quantitative real-time PCR and shown to be strongly increased (150-fold induction) at gastrulation, thus suggesting a key role for BMP-2 in fish development. Tissue distribution of SaBMP-2 mRNA revealed highest levels in the calcified tissues bone, caudal fin and scales and in liver. BMP-2 was also found to be highly expressed in S. aurata bone-derived cell lines VSa13 and VSa16 and to be up-regulated (more than 10-fold induction) in mineralized VSa13 chondrocyte-like cells. Using bioinformatic tools and all vertebrate protein sequences available, conserved features of BMP-2 were characterized. The mature protein was shown to be highly conserved across 20 species indicating that BMP-2 function has been conserved throughout evolution, a finding that is in agreement with the widely accepted view of the important role played by BMPs in vertebrate development.