Neurons and support cells of each sensory organ in Drosophila embryos are most likely derived from a single precursor cell. This cell lineage is affected in numb mutants. Morphological alterations of sensory structures, as well as changes in the number of cells expressing cell type-specific markers, indicate that sensory neurons in numb mutant embryos are transformed into lineage-related nonneuronal support cells. Thus the numb gene controls the fate of progeny derived from sensory organ precursors. The numb gene has been isolated by the plasmid rescue method. The structure of its predicted product is discussed.