During Drosophila embryogenesis, a cell sheet movement, dorsal closure, allows establishment of the dorsal epidermis. In this morphogenetic process, lateral epithelia undergo a dramatic movement toward the dorsal midline. In the mutant hemipterous (hep), spreading of the epithelia is blocked; in genetically sensitized hep embryos, cell sheet movement can be arrested at any time, indicating hep requirement in maintaining this morphogenetic activity. Further, hep is required for expression in the dorsal epithelium edges of another dorsal closure gene, puckered. The HEP protein is homologous to the Jun kinase kinase (JNKK) group of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases (MAPKKs). These data suggest that hep functions in a novel Drosophila MAPK pathway, controlling puckered expression and morphogenetic activity of the dorsal epidermis.