Somatic sexual differentiation in Drosophila melanogaster is accomplished by a hierarchy of genes of which one, Sex-lethal (Sxl), is required for the functional female-specific splicing of the transcripts of the immediately downstream regulatory gene, transformer (tra). The first exon of the tra primary transcript is spliced to one of two acceptor sites. Splicing to the upstream site yields a messenger RNA which is neither sex-specific nor functional, but that produced after splicing to the downstream acceptor site yields a functional female-specific mRNA. Here we address the question of how the Sxl gene product determines the alternative splicing of tra primary transcripts. One suggestion is that non-sex-specific splicing to the upstream acceptor is blocked in female flies by sex-specific factors, but neither the identity of the female-specific factors nor the mechanism of the blockage has been specified. We have now performed co-transfection experiments in which Sxl complementary DNA and the tra gene are expressed in Drosophila Kc cells. Moreover, we find that female Sxl-encoded protein binds specifically to the tra transcript at or near the non-sex-specific acceptor site, implying that the female Sxl gene product is the trans-acting factor that regulates the alternative splicing.