Drosophila melanogaster photoreceptors are highly polarized cells and their plasma membrane is organized into distinct domains. Zonula adherens junctions separate a smooth peripheral surface, the equivalent of the basolateral surface in other epithelial cells, from the central surface (approximately equal to apical surface). The latter consists of the microvillar rhabdomere and the juxtarhabdomeric domain, a nonmicrovillar area between the rhabdomere and the zonulae adherens. The distribution of Na/K-ATPase over these domains was examined by immunocytochemical, developmental, and genetic approaches. Immunofluorescence and immunogold labeling of adult compound eyes reveal that the distribution of Na/K-ATPase is concentrated at the peripheral surface in the photoreceptors R1-R6, but extends over the juxtarhabdomeric domain to the rhabdomere in the photoreceptors R7/R8. Developmental analysis demonstrates further that Na/K-ATPase is localized over the entire plasma membrane in all photoreceptors in early pupal eyes. Redistribution of Na/K-ATPase in R1-R6 occurs at about 78% of pupal life, coinciding with the onset of Rh1-rhodopsin expression on the central surface of these cells. Despite the essential role of Rh1 in structural development and intracellular trafficking, Rh1 mutations do not affect the distribution of Na/K-ATPase. These results suggest that Na/K-ATPase and rhodopsin are involved in distinct intracellular localization mechanisms, which are maintained independent of each other.