Nuclear protein kinases are believed to play important roles in regulating gene expression. We report here the identification and developmental expression of Dmnk (Drosophila maternal nuclear kinase), a Drosophila gene encoding a putative nuclear protein serine/threonine kinase with no apparent homology to previously identified protein kinases and located at 38B on the second chromosome. Dmnk mRNAs are transcribed in nurse cells and are subsequently localized in the anterior of oocytes during oogenesis, in a manner similar to several maternal transcripts regulating oogenesis and early embryogenesis. At early cleavage-stages Dmnk transcripts are transiently present throughout the embryo, but become restricted to the posterior pole and then to the newly-formed primordial germ cells (pole cells) by the blastoderm stage. The transcripts are sustained in the pole cells during gastrulation until they pass through the midgut pocket wall into the body cavity. Immunostaining with specific antibodies revealed that Dmnk proteins are localized to the nuclei in a speckled pattern. Dmnk proteins become detectable in both somatic and germ line cell nuclei upon their arrival at the periplasm of the syncytial embryo, but then disappear from the somatic cell nuclei. Consistent with mRNA expression, Dmnk proteins in pole cell nuclei are sustained during gastrulation. Taken together, Dmnk represents a novel class of nuclear protein kinases and the dynamic expression of Dmnk suggests a role in germ line establishment. The results are discussed in the light of recent findings concerning germ line establishment in Caenorhabditis and Drosophila.