The twist gene is involved in the establishment of germ layers in Drosophila embryos: twist homozygous mutant embryos fail to form the ventral furrow at gastrulation and lack mesoderm and all internal organs. We have determined the sequence of the twist gene, that contains 'CAX' repeats in its 5' moiety, and codes for a protein of 490 amino acids. We have raised anti-twist antibodies that were used to study the distribution of the twist protein in whole mounts and tissue sections of wild-type embryos. Twist protein appears to be a nuclear protein at all developmental stages. It is present over both poles and in the midventral region (endoderm and mesoderm anlagen) at cellular blastoderm stage; later in development, it is detected within the mesodermal layer until its differentiation into somatopleura and splanchnopleura in which some cells are still labelled by anti-twist antibodies.