The homeotic genes of the bithorax complex (BX-C) and the Antennapedia complex (ANT-C) of Drosophila appear to specify the developmental fate of segments or parts of segments of the fly. We have previously reported weak DNA sequence homology between 3' portions of the Antennapedia and fushi tarazu genes of the ANT-C and the Ultrabithorax gene of the BX-C. Here we show that this DNA homology (the homeo box) is due to a conserved protein-coding sequence present in these three pattern-formation genes. Thus the functional homology between these developmental controlling genes is reflected in a structural homology in their gene products. The homeo box sequence is also present in a few copies in the genomes of some other invertebrates, and is even conserved in vertebrate genomes, including the human genome. Apparently at least a part of these developmental switch genes from Drosophila is highly conserved during evolution, and might perform an analogous function in many metazoans .