Specific fragments of Drosophila regulatory DNA can alter the insertional specificity of transposable elements causing them to 'home' to their parent gene. We used this property to insert a transposon-encoded functional coding region near a defective one and rescue a null mutation. This approach differs from homologous recombination in that the endogenous defective coding region is left in place and the genomic DNA is altered by the addition of the therapeutic transposon. We constructed a P-element-based transposon in which an engrailed cDNA from Anopheles gambiae (a mosquito) is expressed from a Drosophila engrailed minimal promoter. The promoter fragment used includes 2.6 kb of regulatory DNA that causes transposons to home to the endogenous Drosophila engrailed gene at high frequencies. We inserted this transposon onto a Drosophila chromosome that produces no functional engrailed proteins. When this transposon integrated near the engrailed promoter, adult viability was restored to engrailed mutant flies showing that the highly divergent mosquito engrailed protein can replace the Drosophila engrailed protein at all stages of development. Insertion of this transposon into the adjacent invected gene, which is transcribed in a pattern similar to engrailed, led to only embryonic rescue, suggesting an important difference in the regulation of these two genes.