The locus hunchback (hb) is a member of the gap class of segmentation genes of Drosophila. A number of X-ray-induced deletions locate the hb locus at the chromosomal site 85A3-B1, to the right of the pink locus, which maps in the same interval. A total of 14 EMS and 3 X-ray-induced hb alleles have been studied. Homozygous mutant embryos show deletions of segments in two separate regions. In the six strong alleles, the labium and all three thoracic segments are deleted anteriorly while posteriorly the 8th abdominal segment and adjacent parts of the 7th abdominal segment are lacking. The eight weak alleles show smaller deletions both in the thoracic and posterior abdominal region. In the weakest allele only part of the mesothorax is deleted. Three hb alleles produce a homoeotic transformation: superimposed on a strong or weak deletion phenotype, head or thoracic segments are transformed into abdominal segments, respectively. This suggests that hb might also be involved in the regulation of genes in the Bithorax complex (BX-C). Fate mapping of the normal-appearing segments in strong mutant embryos using the UV-laser beam ablation technique (Lohs-Schardin et al., 1979) shows that these segments arise from the normal blastoderm regions. The mutant phenotype can be recognized soon after the onset of gastrulation in a failure to fully extend the germ band. In 6-hr-old mutant embryos, two clusters of dead cells are observed in the thoracic and posterior abdominal region. These observations indicate region specific requirement of hb gene function. The analysis of germ line chimeras by transplantation of homozygous mutant pole cells shows that hb is already expressed during oogenesis. Homozygous mutant embryos derived from a homozygous mutant germ line have a novel phenotype. The anterior affected region is enlarged, including all three gnathal segments and the anterior three abdominal segments. In addition three abdominal segments with reversed polarity are formed between the remaining head structures and the posterior abdomen. Heterozygous mutant embryos derived from a homozygous mutant germ line develop normally, indicating that maternal gene expression is not required for normal development.