Throughout its long evolutionary history, the Dopa decarboxylase gene (Ddc) has acquired a variety of functions in insects. The enzyme (DDC) catalyzes the production of the neural transmitters dopamine and serotonin. Not surprisingly, evidence of the enzyme's involvement in the behavior of insects is beginning to accumulate. In addition, DDC plays a role in wound healing, parasite defense, pigmentation, and cuticle hardening. A high degree of sequence conservation has allowed comparisons of the Ddc-coding regions from various insects, facilitating a number of recent studies on insect systematics. This review outlines the diverse functions of Ddc and illustrates how studies of this model system address many questions on insect neurobiology, developmental biology, and systematics.