The achaete-scute complex (AS-C) comprises five genetic regions: achaete, scute (sc) alpha, lethal of sc, sc beta and sc gamma. Each region promotes the determination and positional specification of different, but partially overlapping, subsets of neural elements of Drosophila. In this work, we report a molecular characterization of the sc gamma region. It comprises 22 kb of DNA and contains two transcription units, only one of which, named asense (ase), seems involved in neurogenesis. ase encodes a protein that shares with other three AS-C proteins a domain containing a helix--loop--helix motif characteristic of a group of DNA-binding proteins. In the embryo, ase is expressed in neural precursor cells, a pattern consistent with the known requirement of sc gamma for the development of the larval nervous system. In late third-instar larvae, the gene is expressed in developing structures of the central nervous system (CNS), namely the anlagen of the optic lobes and in many cells, including neuroblasts, of the central brain and ventral ganglia. Its removal leads to anatomical defects in the adult optic lobes. This is the first demonstration of a role for the AS-C in the development of the adult CNS.