The developmental expression patterns of four genes, Hox 1.1, Hox 1.2, Hox 1.3 and Hox 3.1, were examined by in situ hybridization to serial embryonic sections. The three genes of the Hox 1 cluster, used in this study, map to adjacent positions along chromosome 6, whereas the Hox 3.1 gene maps to the Hox 3 cluster on chromosome 15. The anterior expression limits in segmented mesoderm varied among the four genes examined. Interestingly, a linear correlation exists between the position of the gene along the chromosome and the extent of anterior expression. Genes that are expressed more posterior are also more restricted in their expression in other mesoderm-derived tissues. The order of expression anterior to posterior was determined as: Hox 1.3, Hox 1.2, Hox 1.1 and Hox 3.1. Similarly, genes of the Drosophila Antennapedia and Bithorax complex specifying segment identity also exhibit anterior expression boundaries that correlate with gene position. The data suggest that Hox genes may specify positional information along the anterior-posterior axis during the formation of the body plan.