The recently discovered LIM motif is found in a set of homeodomain-containing proteins thought to mediate the generation of particular cell types. Of the four LIM domain family members described to date, mec-3 and lin-11 determine cell lineages in C. elegans. Isl-1 and Xlim-1 may play similar roles in vertebrates. We have identified a Drosophila member of this class, the product of the apterous (ap) gene. During embryogenesis, ap is expressed in a small subset of fusing mesodermal precursors that give rise to 6 muscles in each abdominal hemisegment and in 5 neurons within each corresponding CNS hemisegment. Lack of ap function results in loss of ap-expressing muscles, while misexpression of ap using a heterologous promoter produces ectopic muscles.