The tramtrack (ttk) protein has been proposed as a maternally provided repressor of the fushi tarazu (ftz) gene in Drosophila embryos at the preblastoderm stage. Consistent with this hypothesis, we have detected by immunohistochemistry the presence of ttk protein in preblastoderm embryos. This is followed by a complete decay upon formation of the cellular blastoderm when ftz striped expression is at its peak. In addition, the highly complex pattern of zygotic ttk expression suggests specific functions for ttk late in development that are separate from the regulation of ftz. We have produced ttk protein ectopically in blastoderm-stage embryos transformed with a heat shock-ttk construct. Ectopic ttk caused complete or near-complete repression of the endogenous ftz gene, as well as significant repression of the pair-rule genes even skipped, odd skipped, hairy and runt. These findings suggest that specific repression by ttk (or by undiscovered repressors) may be more than an isolated phenomenon during the rapid cleavage divisions, a period when the need for genetic repression has not been generally anticipated.