A phylogenetic approach was used to identify conserved regions of the transcriptional regulator Runt. Alignment of the deduced protein sequences from Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila pseudoobscura, and Drosophila virilis revealed eight blocks of high sequence homology separated by regions with little or no homology. The largest conserved block contains the Runt domain, a DNA and protein binding domain conserved in a small family of mammalian transcription factors. The functional properties of the Runt domain from the D. melanogaster gene and the human AML1 (acute myeloid leukemia 1) gene were compared in vitro and in vivo. Electrophoretic mobility-shift assays with Runt/AML1 chimeras demonstrated that the different DNA binding properties of Runt and AML1 are due to differences within their respective Runt domains. Ectopic expression experiments indicated that proteins containing the AML1 Runt domain function in Drosophila embryos and that sequences outside of this domain are important in vivo.