The cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) has been shown to mediate the vast majority of cellular responses to the intracellular second messenger, cAMP, in eukaryotes. To study the role of cAMP signal transduction in Drosophila development, we have isolated and molecularly characterized mutations of varying severity in the Drosophila PKA gene, DC0. Biochemical measurements indicate that DC0 is either the sole or the major PKA catalytic subunit gene in Drosophila. Adult females heterozygous for a strong and a weak DC0 allele fail to lay eggs and show a striking and novel defect in oogenesis that includes the formation of egg chambers containing multinucleate nurse cells. Females heterozygous for two weak DC0 alleles are fertile but produce offspring showing a variety of defects in embryogenesis, including preblastoderm arrest and alterations in cuticular patterning. Animals zygotically null for DC0 die as morphologically normal first-instar larvae, implying that maternally encoded protein, which perdures for at least 12 hr, suffices for embryogenesis. Animals hemizygous for weak DC0 alleles survive for several days as larvae but grow slowly. Mitotic recombination experiments in the adult eye indicate that the DC0 gene is not required autonomously either for cell viability or normal growth rates. These results argue that cAMP-mediated signal transduction is essential at a variety of stages during the development of a metazoan.