Cell proliferation in Drosophila imaginal discs appears to be regulated by a disc-intrinsic mechanism involving local cell interactions that also control the formation of patterns of differentiation. This growth-control mechanism breaks down in animals homozygous for the mutation lethal (2) giant discs (l(2)gd) which remain as larvae for up to 9 days longer than normal. During this time cell proliferation continues in the imaginal discs as well as in the imaginal rings for the salivary glands, foregut, and hindgut, so that these tissues become greatly overgrown. When wild-type wing discs from mid-third instar larvae were removed and cultured for up to 28 days in wild-type female adult hosts, they grew and terminated growth at a cell number close to that which would be attained in situ by the time of pupariation. On the other hand, wing discs from l(2)gd homozygotes grew rapidly and continuously when cultivated in wild-type hosts, reached an enormous size, and acquired abnormal folding patterns. Overgrowth of mutant imaginal rings also continued during culture of these tissues in wild-type hosts. We conclude that overgrowth in this mutant is due to an autonomous defect in the imaginal primordia, which requires an extended larval period for its expression in situ.