In Drosophila, the specific morphological characteristics of each segment are determined by the homeotic genes that regulate the expression of downstream target genes. We used a subtractive hybridization procedure to isolate activated target genes of the homeotic gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx). In addition, we constructed a set of mutant genotypes that measures the regulatory contribution of individual homeotic genes to a complex target gene expression pattern. Using these mutants, we demonstrate that homeotic genes can regulate target gene expression at the start of gastrulation, suggesting a previously unknown role for the homeotic genes at this early stage. We also show that, in abdominal segments, the levels of expression for two target genes increase in response to high levels of Ubx, demonstrating that the normal down-regulation of Ubx in these segments is functional. Finally, the DNA sequence of cDNAs for one of these genes predicts a protein that is similar to a human proto-oncogene involved in acute myeloid leukemias. These results illustrate potentially general rules about the homeotic control of target gene expression and suggest that subtractive hybridization can be used to isolate interesting homeotic target genes.