Cell lineages that give rise to the PNS were studied using the thymidine analog 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to visualized DNA replication immunocytochemically. The precursors of the PNS in the body segments of Drosophila embryos replicate their DNA in a spatially and temporally stereotyped pattern. The sequence of DNA replication within developing sensory organs suggests particular lineage relationships of the cells that constitute a sensory organ, i.e., neuron and associated support cells. In embryos that are mutant for the achaete-scute complex or daughterless, in which most or all of the PNS is missing, no BrdU-labeled cells were found in the appropriate regions, suggesting that these PNS precursors either do not form or fail to replicate. Thus, the BrdU technique allows determination as to whether a mutation affects the PNS precursors or terminal differentiation.