We used in situ hybridization histochemistry with synthetic oligonucleotide probes to localize the mRNAs encoding the alpha 2- and beta-mRNAs of Na,K-ATPase during development of the brine shrimp Artemia. The mRNAs of the alpha 2- and beta-subunit were of low abundance in the cysts; in addition, less mRNA of the beta-subunit was localized. During emergence (12 hr), there was an increase in alpha 2-subunit mRNA in the gut mucosa, but there was a burst in beta-subunit mRNA throughout. As development progressed, the mRNAs of both the alpha 2- and beta-subunits showed a distinct pattern of expression in which the mRNA in the salt gland was of greatest abundance, followed by epidermal cells and gut mucosa. After 36 hr the alpha 2-subunit mRNA began to decrease in all positive cells but still remained highest in the salt gland and the brain region, while the mRNA of the beta-subunit kept increasing in the gut mucosa. Finally, the greatest abundance of the beta-subunit mRNA shifted from the salt gland to the antenna gland and the epidermal cells in the tail region, but the alpha 2-subunit mRNA did not. The more widespread distribution of the beta-mRNA than alpha 2-mRNA at certain stages (e.g., there was no alpha 2-mRNA in the antenna gland at the adult stage) is in all likelihood due to the marked drop in the alpha 2-subunit and a rise in alpha 1-subunit previously seen by Peterson et al. on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, as development progresses.