Octopamine has been proposed as a neurotransmitter/modulator/hormone serving a variety of physiological functions in invertebrates. We have initiated a study of octopamine in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which provides an excellent system for genetic and molecular analysis of neuroactive molecules. As a first step, the distribution of octopamine immunoreactivity was studied by means of an octopamine-specific antiserum. We focused on the central nervous system (CNS) and on the innervation of the larval body wall muscles. The larval octopamine neuronal pattern was composed of prominent neurons along the midline of the ventral ganglion, whereas brain lobes were devoid of immunoreactive somata. However, intense immunoreactive neuropil was observed both in the ventral ganglion and in the brain lobes. Some of the immunoreactive neurons sent peripheral fibers that innervated most of the muscles of the larval body wall. Octopamine immunoreactivity was observed at neuromuscular junctions in all larval stages, being present in a well-defined subset of synaptic boutons, type II. Octopamine immunoreactivity in the adult CNS revealed many additional neurons compared to the larval CNS, indicating that at least a subset of adult octopamine neurons may differentiate during metamorphosis. Major octopamine-immunoreactive neuronal clusters and neuronal processes were observed in the subesophageal ganglion, deutocerebrum, and dorsal protocerebrum, and intense neuropil staining was detected primarily in the optic lobes and in the central complex.