Janus kinase 2 (Jak2) transduces signals from hematopoietic cytokines, and a gain-of-function mutation (Jak2617V>F) is associated with myeloproliferative diseases, particularly polycythemia vera. In this study, we examined the role of jak2a in zebrafish embryos in knock-down and overexpression studies using morpholinos (MOs) targeting the 5' untranslated region (UTR) (jak2aUTR-MO) and splice-site junction (jak2aSS-MO) of jak2a, a Jak inhibitor AG490 and a constitutive-active form of jak2a (jak2aca). At 18 and 24 hours after fertilization (hpf), jak2a is expressed predominantly in the intermediate cell mass (ICM; site of primitive hematopoiesis) of wild-type and chordin morphant embryos (characterized by expansion of ICM). Both jak2a MOs and AG490 reduced gata1+ (erythroid) cells in Tg(gata1:GFP) embryos, signal transducer and activation of transcription 5 (stat5) phosphorylation, and gene expression associated with early progenitors (scl and lmo2) and erythroid (gata1, he1 and ßhe1) and myeloid (spi1 [early] and mpo [late]) lineages. The chordin morphant is associated with increased stat5 phosphorylation, and both jak2a MOs and treatment with AG490 significantly ameliorated ICM expansion and hematopoietic gene up-regulation in these embryos. Injection of plasmid encoding jak2aca significantly increased erythropoiesis and expression of gata1, he1 and ßhe1, spi1, mpo, and l-plastin. In conclusion, zebrafish jak2a is involved in primitive hematopoiesis under normal and deregulated conditions.