The achaete (ac) and scute (sc) genes of Drosophila allow cells to become sensory organ mother cells. Although ac and sc have similar patterns of expression, deletion of either gene removes specific subsets of sensory organs. This specificity was shown to reside in the peculiar regulation of ac and sc expression. These genes are first activated in complementary spatial domains in response to different cis-regulatory sequences. Each gene product then stimulates expression of the other gene, thus generating similar patterns of expression. Therefore, removal of one gene leads to the absence of both proneural gene products and sensory organs in the sites specified by its cis-regulatory sequences.