The gene vestigial has been proposed to act as a master gene because of its supposed capacity to initiate and drive wing development. We show that the ectopic expression of vestigial only induces ectopic outgrowths with wing cuticular differentiation and wing blade gene expression patterns in specific developmental and genetic contexts. In the process of transformation, wingless seems to be an essential but insufficient co-factor of vestigial. vestigial ectopic expression alone or vestigial plus wingless co-expression in clones differentiate 'mixed' cuticular patterns (they contain wing blade trichomes and chaetae characteristic of the endogenous surrounding tissue) and express wing blade genes only in patches of cells within the clones. In addition, we have found that these clones, in the wing imaginal disc, may cause autonomous as well as non-autonomous cuticular transformations and wing blade gene expression patterns. These non-autonomous effects in surrounding cells result from recruitment or 'inductive assimilation' of vestigial or wingless-vestigial overexpressing cells.