The neurogenic genes of Drosophila have long been known to regulate cell fate decisions in the developing ectoderm. In this paper we show that these genes also control mesoderm development. Embryonic cells that express the muscle-specific gene nautilus are overproduced in each of seven neurogenic mutants (Notch, Delta, Enhancer of split, big brain, mastermind, neuralized, and almondex), at the apparent expense of neighboring, nonexpressing mesodermal cells. The mesodermal defect does not appear to be a simple consequence of associated neural hypertrophy, suggesting that the neurogenic genes may function similarly and independently in establishing cell fates in both ectoderm and mesoderm. Altered patterns of beta 3-tubulin and myosin heavy chain gene expression in the mutants indicate a role for the neurogenic genes in development of most visceral and somatic muscles. We propose that the signal produced by the neurogenic genes is a general one, effective in both ectoderm and mesoderm.