The engrailed gene is required for segmentation of the Drosophila embryo and is expressed in cells constituting the posterior developmental compartments. In mutant embryos lacking engrailed function, portions of the cuticular pattern in each segment are deleted, resulting in fusion of adjacent denticle bands. Using P-element-mediated transposition, we generated flies that express the engrailed gene under the control of an hsp70 promoter, and found that ectopic, heat-shock-induced, engrailed expression caused pattern defects similar to those in embryos lacking engrailed function. Sensitivity to heat shock was only during the cellular blastoderm and early gastrulation periods. This window of sensitivity corresponds to the time when wild-type engrailed protein localizes into segmentally reiterated strips and represents only a small portion of the normal period of engrailed gene expression.