The Antennapedia (Antp) homeotic gene of Drosophila melanogaster regulates segmental identity in the thorax. Loss of Antp function results in altered development of the embryonic thoracic segments or can cause legs to be transformed into antennae. Certain combinations of Antp recessive lethal alleles complement to permit normal development. The structure of the Antp gene, analyzed by sequencing cDNA clones and exons and by transcript mapping, revealed some of the basis for its genetic complexity. It has two promoters governing two nested transcription units, one unit 36 and one 103 kilobase pairs (kb) long. Both units incorporated the same protein-coding exons, all of which are located in the 3'-most 13 kb of the gene. The two promoters resulted in the attachment of either of two long noncoding leader sequences (1.5 and 1.7 kb) to a 1.1-kb open reading frame. Both transcription units used the same pair of alternative polyadenylation sites 1.4 kb apart; the choice of sites was developmentally regulated. Some of the mutations that disrupt the larger transcription unit complemented a mutation affecting the smaller one. Dominant mutations that transform antennae into legs split the gene but left the coding exons intact. The encoded protein has unusually long runs of glutamine and a homeodomain near the C terminus.