The Drosophila melanogaster gene teashirt (tsh) is essential for segment identity of the embryonic thorax and abdomen. A deletion 3' to the tsh transcription unit causes the loss of tsh early expression in the even-numbered parasegments, and the corresponding larval cuticular patterns are disrupted. tsh function in the odd-numbered parasegments in these mutants is normal by both criteria. The in vivo activities of genomic fragments from the deleted region were tested in transgenic embryos. A 2.0 kb enhancer from the 3' region acts mainly in the even-numbered parasegments and is dependent on fushi tarazu (ftz) activity, which encodes a homeodomain protein required for the development of even-numbered parasegments. Ftz protein binds in vitro to four distinct sequences in a 220 bp sub-fragment; these and neighboring sequences are conserved in the equivalent enhancer isolated from Drosophila virilis. Tsh protein produced under the control of the 220 bp enhancer partially rescues a null tsh mutation, with its strongest effect in the even-numbered parasegments. Mutation of the Ftz binding sites partially abrogates the capacity for rescue. These results suggest a composite mechanism for regulation of tsh, with different activators such as ftz contributing to the overall pattern of expression of this key regulator.