We describe the molecular characterization of the paired-type homeobox gene D-Ptx1 of Drosophila, a close homolog of the mouse pituitary homeobox gene Ptx1 and the unc-30 gene of C. elegans, characterized by a lysine residue at position 9 of the third alpha-helix of the homeodomain. D-Ptx1 is expressed at various restricted locations throughout embryogenesis. Initial expression of D-Ptx1 in the posterior-most region of the blastoderm embryo is controlled by fork head activity in response to the activated Ras/Raf signaling pathway. During later stages of embryonic development. D-Ptx1 transcripts and protein accumulate in the posterior portion of the midgut, in the developing Malpighian tubules, in a subset of ventral somatic muscles, and in neural cells. Phenotypic analysis of gain-of-function and lack-of-function mutant embryos show that the D-Ptx1 gene is not involved in morphologically apparent differentiation processes. We conclude that D-Ptx1 is more likely to control physiological cell functions than pattern formation during Drosophila embryogenesis.