The (Na+ + K+)-ATPase (sodium pump) is an ouabain-sensitive, electrogenic ion pump responsible for maintaining the balance of sodium and potassium ions in almost all animal cells. Robust, ouabain-sensitive rubidium uptake, indicative of the sodium pump, was found in tissue-cultured Drosophila cells, and both larvae and adults die when fed a diet containing ouabain. A monoclonal antibody to the avian sodium pump alpha-subunit was found to cross-react with the Drosophila sodium pump alpha-subunit. Immunofluorescence microscopy was used to obtain a semi-quantitative view of the expression of the sodium pump in Drosophila tissues: high levels of the sodium pump were detected in malpighian tubules, indirect flight muscles and tubular muscles, and throughout the nervous system. The cDNA encoding this sodium pump alpha-subunit in Drosophila melanogaster was cloned, sequenced and expressed in mouse L cells. At the amino acid level, its deduced sequence of 1038 residues (the first such sequence for an invertebrate) is approximately 80% similar to alpha-subunit sequences reported for vertebrates. Only one gene was found in Drosophila, located on the third chromosome at position 93B. A restriction site polymorphism has been found, and several mutations exist that may involve the alpha-subunit gene.