Organogenesis involves cell proliferation followed by complex determination and differentiation events that are intricately controlled in time and space. The instructions for these different steps are, to a large degree, implicit in the gene expression profiles of the cells that partake in organogenesis. Combining fluorescence-activated cell sorting and SAGE, we analyzed genomic expression patterns in the developing eye of Drosophila melanogaster. Genomic activity changes as cells pass from an uncommitted proliferating progenitor state through determination and differentiation steps toward a specialized cell fate. Analysis of the upstream sequences of genes specifically expressed during the proliferation phase of eye development implicates the transcription factor DREF and its inhibitor dMLF in the control of cell growth in this organ.