Abstract Insulin is one of the key peptide hormones that regulates growth and metabolism in vertebrates. Evolutionary conservation of many elements of the insulin/IGF signaling network makes it possible to study the basic genetic function of this pathway in lower metazoan models such as Drosophila. Here we report the cloning and characterization of the gene for Drosophila insulin/relaxin-like peptide (DIRLP). The predicted protein structure of DIRLP greatly resembles typical insulin structure and contains features that differentiate it from the Drosophila juvenile hormone, another member of the insulin family. The Dirlp gene is represented as a single copy in the Drosophila melanogaster genome (compared to multiple copies for Drosophila juvenile hormone) and shows evolutionary conservation of genetic structure. The gene was mapped to the Drosophila chromosome 3, region 67D2. In situ hybridization of whole-mount Drosophila embryos with Dirlp antisense RNA probe reveals early embryonic mesodermal/ventral furrow expression pattern, consistent with earlier observation of the insulin protein immunoreactivity in Drosophila embryos. The in situ hybridization pattern was found to be identical to that obtained during immunohistochemistry analysis of the Drosophila embryos using various insulin monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies that do not recognize Drosophila juvenile hormone, supporting the idea that Dirlp is a possible Drosophila insulin ortholog. Identification of the gene for DIRLP provides a new approach for study of the regulatory pathway of the insulin family of peptides.