The Drosophila gene sevenless encodes a putative trans-membrane receptor required for the formation of one particular cell, the R7 photoreceptor, in each ommatidium of the compound eye. Mutations in this gene result in the cell normally destined to form the R7 cell forming a non-neuronal cell type instead. These observations have led to the proposal that the sevenless protein receives at least part of the positional information required for the R7 developmental pathway. We have generated antibodies specific for sevenless and have examined expression of the protein by light and electron microscopy. sevenless protein is present transiently at high levels in at least 9 cells in each developing ommatidium and is detectable several hours before any overt differentiation of R7. The protein is mostly localized at the apices of the cells, in microvilli, but is also found deeper in the tissue where certain cells contact the R8 cell. This finding suggests that R8 expresses a ligand for the sevenless protein.