We have investigated the function of the neurogenic gene Notch (N) during development of the adult sensilla of Drosophila. Heat pulses were applied to flies carrying the temperature-sensitive Notch allele Nts1 at different larval and pupal stages. We can show that the reduction of Notch+ function during a short interval prior to the onset of sensillum precursor division, resulting from a heat pulse between 0 and 14 hr after puparium formation (apf), leads to an increase in microchaete precursors at the expense of epidermal cells. The structure and cellular composition of the sensilla produced by these supernumerary precursors are normal. Later heat pulses which include the interval immediately after sensillum precursor division (14-20 hr apf) lead, among the progeny of the sensillum precursors, to a hyperplasia of sensory neurons, at the expense of accessory cells. The resulting "sensilla" consist of neurons only and lack the external cuticular structures (i.e., shaft, socket). These results demonstrate that similar mechanisms both of which involve the function of the Notch gene may be operating to sort out (premitotic) sensillum precursors from epidermal precursors and (postmitotic) sensory neurons from accessory cells. They further show that in postmitotic sensillum cells the differentiative fate is not yet irreversibly fixed, but presumably requires cell-cell interaction to become established.