The Deformed (Dfd) gene is a homeotic selector that functions in specifying the identity of the mandibular and maxillary segments. We have constructed transformed fly strains carrying a Dfd cDNA under the heat-inducible control of the hsp70 promoter. With these strains we can induce the ectopic expression of Dfd protein in other segments at various stages of embryonic development. We find that both early and persistent synthesis of the protein is required for the transformation of other body segments toward head segmental identity. The persistent expression of the Dfd protein requires an endogenous copy of the Dfd gene, and we show that the expression of the endogenous copy can be induced by hsDfd expression. This implies that the Dfd protein autoactivates expression from the Dfd locus during normal development. The autoactivation circuit supplies a simple mechanism that can account, in part, for the stability of the determined state controlled by Dfd.