We have analyzed the Tribolium castaneum ortholog of the Drosophila homeotic gene Deformed (Dfd) and determined its expression pattern during embryogenesis in this beetle. Tc Deformed (Tc Dfd) is expressed in the blastoderm and the condensing germ rudiment in a region that gives rise to gnathal segments. During germ band extension Tc Dfd is expressed in the mandibular and maxillary segments, their appendages, and the dorsal ridge. Comparison of insect Dfd protein sequences reveals several highly conserved regions. To determine whether common molecular features reflect conserved regulatory functions we used the Gal4 system to express the Tribolium protein in Drosophila embryos. When Tc Dfd is expressed throughout embryonic ectoderm under the control of P69B, the beetle protein autoregulates the endogenous Dfd gene. In addition, the Drosophila proboscipedia gene (a normal target of Dfd) is ectopically activated in the antennal and thoracic segments. We also compared the ability of the beetle and fly proteins to rescue defects in Dfd- mutants by expressing each throughout the embryonic during embryogenesis. Both proteins rescued Dfd- defects to the same extent in that they each restore the development of mouth hooks and cirri, as well as cause gain-of-function abnormalities of posterior mouth parts. As before, pb was ectopically activated in the antennal segment. This is the first demonstration of the ability of a heterologous homeotic selector protein to directly regulate a target gene independent of an endogenous Drosophila autoregulatory loop.