The embryonic lethal abnormal visual system (elav) gene of Drosophila melanogaster is required for the development and maintenance of the nervous system. Transcripts from this locus are distributed ubiquitously throughout the nervous system at all developmental stages. A product of this gene, the ELAV protein, has homology to known RNA binding proteins. The localization of the ELAV protein was studied in all developmental stages using antibodies that were generated against a hybrid protein made in Escherichia coli. In general, these data are consistent with previous results and demonstrate that (1) the ELAV protein is detected in the developing embryonic nervous system at a time coincident with the birth of the first neurons, (2) the ELAV protein is first detected in the majority of neurons of the central and peripheral nervous systems of embryos, larvae, pupae, and adults, (3) the ELAV protein appears to be localized to the nucleus, and (4) the ELAV protein is not detected in neuroblasts or identifiable glia. These data also provide new information concerning elav expression and show that (1) ELAV is not expressed in the ganglion mother cells (GMCs), (2) while the ELAV protein is localized to the nucleus, it is not uniformly distributed throughout this structure, and (3) other Drosophila species do express an ELAV-like antigen. We propose that the elav gene provides a neuronal-housekeeping function that is required for the successful posttranscriptional processing of transcripts from a set of genes the function of which is required for proper neuronal development and maintenance.