Hoxa-11 is a member of the homeodomain class of transcription factors, which play important roles in metazoan development. Hoxa-11 is particularly interesting because it is involved in a major mammalian innovation, uterus development and gestation. We are interested in the molecular changes underlying this evolutionary innovation. Although phenotypes resulting from loss of functions are well investigated (e.g., female sterility), little is known about the domains contributing to Hoxa-11 protein function. We therefore mapped the domains mediating two essential transcription factor functions, nuclear localization and transcriptional activity in the mouse Hoxa-11 protein. Our results show that the mammal-specific alanine repeat does not contribute to repressor activity, as has been hypothesized based on amino acid composition and analogy with other repressor domains. Interestingly, both the repressor domain as well as the nuclear localization signal (NLS) are located within the homeodomain, adding to the growing evidence that the homeodomain is a multifunctional domain which fulfills essential transcription factor functions beyond DNA binding. It is proposed that the high degree of conservation of the homeodomain is due to the multiple functional constraints that result from the various conserved functions accommodated in the homeodomain.