Limb development in Drosophila depends on subdivision of the limb primordia into functional units called compartments. Cell interactions across compartment boundaries establish pattern-organizing centres that control growth and specify cell fates along the anteroposterior (AP) and dorsoventral (DV) axes of the limbs. AP subdivision of the disc primordia is inherited from the embryonic ectoderm. DV subdivision of the wing disc occurs during the second larval instar through localized expression of the apterous protein (Apterous) in dorsal cells. A third major subdivision of the wing disc into wing and body-wall compartments also occurs in the second instar. Here we show that specification of the wing primordium in early second instar depends on activity of the AP patterning system but not the DV system. These results define two distinct roles for the wingless gene: a primary role in specifying the wing primordium, and a subsequent role mediating the patterning activities of the DV compartment boundary.