During Drosophila embryogenesis, the Abelson tyrosine kinase (abl) is localized in the axons of the central nervous system (CNS). Mutations in abl have no detectable effect on the morphology of the embryonic CNS, and the mutant animals survive to the pupal and adult stages. In the absence of abl function, however, heterozygous mutations or deletions of disabled (dab) exert dominant effects, disrupting axonal organization and shifting the lethal phase of the animals to embryonic and early larval stages. Embryos that are homozygous mutant for both abl and dab fail to develop any axon bundles in the CNS, although the peripheral nervous system and the larval cuticle appear normal. The genetic interaction between these two genes begins to define a process in which both the abl tyrosine kinase and the dab gene product participate in establishing axonal connections in the embryonic CNS of Drosophila.