In Drosophila beta tubulins are encoded by a small gene family and the four members of this family are differentially expressed. mRNAs transcribed from two of these genes, namely the beta 1 and beta 3 tubulin genes, are abundant during embryogenesis. While the beta 1 tubulin gene is constitutively expressed during development, beta 3 mRNA is restricted to two distinct phases: mid embryogenesis and metamorphosis. The transcription initiation sites are identical in both these stages and comparison of presumptive promoter regions reveals no extensive homologies between the genes. In situ localization shows beta 1 tubulin mRNA to be maternally expressed in the nurse cells of the egg chambers and evenly distributed during early embryogenesis. In contrast, during later stages of embryogenesis beta 1 tubulin transcripts are predominantly expressed in neural derivatives. The beta 3 tubulin gene expression is also spatially regulated, beta 3 mRNA being restricted to the mesoderm.