The vertebrate genome contains a predicted 50 000 100 000 genes, many of unknown function. The recent development of morpholino-based gene knock-down technology in zebrafish has opened the door to the genome-wide assignment of function based on sequence in a model vertebrate. This review describes technical aspects of morpholino use for functional genomics applications, including the potential for multigene targeting and known methodological limitations. The result of successful gene inactivation by this agent is proposed to yield embryos with a ‘morphant’ phenotypic designation. The establishment of a morphant database opens the door to true functional genomics using the vertebrate, Danio rerio.