The Drosophila gene polo encodes a protein kinase required for progression through mitosis. Wild-type polo protein migrates as a tight doublet of 67 kDa which is converted to a single band by phosphatase treatment, which also inactivates the kinase. We have determined putative polo substrates in a cell-free system derived from mutant embryos. Exogenous polo protein kinase phosphorylates proteins of sizes 220 kDa, 85 kDa and 54 kDa, to a greater extent when added to extracts of polo(1)-derived embryos compared with extracts of wild-type embryos, which in both cases have been subject to mild heat treatment to inactivate endogenous kinases. Proteins of the same size are predominantly phosphorylated by the endogenous kinases present in wild-type extracts, and are either not phosphorylated or are poorly phosphorylated in extracts of polo(1)-derived embryos. We show that a specific monoclonal antibody to beta-tubulin precipitates the phosphorylated 54 kDa protein together with an associated 85 kDa protein also phosphorylated by polo protein kinase. Moreover polo binds to an 85 kDa protein which is enriched in microtubule preparations. We discuss the extent to which these in vitro phosphorylation results reflect the effects of mutations in polo on microtubule behaviour during the mitotic cycle.