The Drosophila melanogaster Gad gene maps to region 64A3-5 of chromosome 3L and encodes glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), the rate-limiting enzyme for the synthesis of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Because this neurotransmitter has been implicated in developmental functions, we have begun to study the role of GABA synthesis during Drosophila embryogenesis. We show that Gad mRNA is expressed in a widespread pattern within the embryonic nervous system. Similarly, GAD-immunoreactive protein is present during embryogenesis. These results prompted us to screen for embryonic lethal mutations that affect GAD activity. The chromosomal region to which Gad maps, however, has not been subjected to an extensive mutational analysis, even though it contains several genes encoding important neurobiological, developmental, or cellular functions. Therefore, we have initially generated both chromosomal rearrangements and point mutations that map to the Drosophila 64AB interval. Altogether, a total of 33 rearrangements and putative point mutations were identified within region 64A3-5 to 64B12. Genetic complementation analysis suggests that this cytogenetic interval contains a minimum of 19 essential genes. Within our collection of lethal mutations are several chromosomal rearrangements, two of which are in the vicinity of the Gad locus. One of these rearrangements, Df(3L)C175, is a small deletion that removes the Gad locus and at least two essential genes; the second, T(2;3)F10, is a reciprocal translocation involving the second and third chromosomes with a break within region 64A3-5. Both of these rearrangements are associated with embryonic lethality and decreased GAD enzymatic activity.