How transcription factors achieve their in vivo specificities is a fundamental question in biology. For the Homeotic Complex (HOM/Hox) family of homeoproteins, specificity in vivo is likely to be in part determined by subtle differences in the DNA binding properties inherent in these proteins. Some of these differences in DNA binding are due to sequence differences in the N-terminal arms of HOM/Hox homeodomains. Evidence also exists to suggest that cofactors can modify HOM/Hox function by cooperative DNA binding interactions. The Drosophila homeoprotein extradenticle (exd) is likely to be one such cofactor. In HOM/Hox proteins, both the conserved 'YPWM' peptide motif and the homeodomain are important for interacting with exd. Although exd provides part of the answer as to how specificity is achieved, there may be additional cofactors and mechanisms that have yet to be identified.