Regulation of the dopa decarboxylase gene of Drosophila has been studied at the genetic and molecular levels. Here we report a direct assay for the tissue and temporal regulation of Ddc. A dopa decarboxylase (DDC) peptide was obtained by bacterial expression of a portion of the DDC gene in a pUC plasmid. Antisera raised against this biologically purified DDC peptide react specifically with Drosophila DDC in histological preparations and protein blots. The levels of DDC cross-reacting material closely parallel the levels of enzyme activity observed during development, indicating that DDC is degraded during periods of declining activity. We find that DDC is expressed in only two tissues, namely, the epidermis and the nervous system of the larva and adult. Epidermal DDC was found within the epidermal cells and was not detected in the overlying cuticle. DDC-containing neurons were observed in the central as well as in the visceral nervous system. Paired and unpaired midline neurons in the ventral ganglia are arranged in a segmental pattern. A subset of the DDC-positive neurons appears to correlate with the serotonin-positive neurons suggesting that the others are producing only dopamine. We find that the DDC activity associated with the proventriculus and ovary is due to the presence of DDC in the stomatogastric and caudal system neurons specifically associated with those structures.