Neph molecules are highly conserved immunoglobulin superfamily proteins (IgSF) which are essential for multiple morphogenetic processes, including glomerular development in mammals and neuronal as well as nephrocyte development in D. melanogaster. While D. melanogaster expresses two Neph-like proteins (Kirre and IrreC/Rst), three Neph proteins (Neph1-3) are expressed in the mammalian system. However, although these molecules are highly abundant, their molecular functions are still poorly understood. Here we report on a fly system in which we overexpress and replace endogenous Neph homologs with mammalian Neph1-3 proteins to identify functional Neph protein networks required for neuronal and nephrocyte development. Misexpression of Neph1, but neither Neph2 nor Neph3, phenocopies the overexpression of endogenous Neph molecules suggesting a functional diversity of mammalian Neph family proteins. Moreover, structure-function analysis identified a conserved and specific Neph1 protein motif that appears to be required for the functional replacement of Kirre. Hereby, we establish D. melanogaster as a genetic system to specifically model molecular Neph1 functions in vivo and identify a conserved amino acid motif linking Neph1 to Drosophila Kirre function.