The interpretation of the wild-type function of a gene depends on our knowledge of the phenotype caused by its absence. We have first defined the genetic extent of the achaete-scute system by studying the phenotype of different terminal and intercalary deficiencies including these genes. When these deficiencies were lethal, we have defined the phenoeffective phase of lethality and studied their phenotype in genetic mosaics (gynandromorphs and mitotic recombination clones). The achaete-scute system affects two functions, one necessary for the differentiation of the embryonic (central?) nervous system and the other necessary for the differentiation of peripheral nervous elements of the chaetes and sensillae of the adult cuticle. The possibility that these functions correspond to differential expression of a single mechanism is discussed.