The Drosophila serendipity alpha gene (sry alpha) is specifically expressed at the blastoderm stage in all somatic cells. By deletion analysis of sry alpha-lacZ fusion genes, the sry alpha cis-acting regulatory elements have been restricted to the [-311, +130] 5'-region of the gene and separated in two domains. The [-118, +130] domain is sufficient for transcriptional activation at the blastoderm stage. The [-311, -118] domain is required for a full level of expression. Deletion of this upstream domain leads to a secondary pattern of lacZ expression in precursor cells of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The sry alpha gene is not itself secondarily expressed in the PNS, as shown by in situ hybridization. The patterns of expression of the different sry alpha-lacZ fusion genes suggest a combinatorial mode of regulation of sry alpha expression at blastoderm.