We have analyzed the cis-acting regulatory sequences of the Rh1 (ninaE) gene in Drosophila melanogaster by P-element-mediated germline transformation of indicator genes transcribed from mutant ninaE promoter sequences. We have previously shown that a 200-bp region extending from -120 to +67 relative to the transcription start site is sufficient to obtain eye-specific expression from the ninaE promoter. In the present study, 22 different 4-13-bp sequences in the -120/+67 promoter region were altered by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. Several of these sequences were found to be required for proper promoter function; two of these are conserved in the promoter of the homologous gene isolated from the related species Drosophila virilis. Alteration of a conserved 9-bp sequence results in aberrant, low level expression in the body. Alteration of a separate 11-bp sequence, found in the promoter regions of several photoreceptor-specific genes of Drosophila, results in an approximately 15-fold reduction in promoter efficiency but without apparent alteration of tissue-specificity. A protein factor capable of interacting with this 11-bp sequence has been detected by DNaseI footprinting in embryonic nuclear extracts. Finally, we have further characterized two separable enhancer sequences previously shown to be required for normal levels of expression from this promoter.