The genes engrailed (en), hedgehog (hh), wingless (wg) and decapentaplegic (dpp) have been shown to play vital organising roles in the development and differentiation of thoracic imaginal discs. We have analysed the roles of these genes in organising the development and differentiation of the genital discs, which are bilaterally symmetrical and possess different primordia, namely, the male and female genital primordia and an anal primordium. Our results suggest that the organising activity of en in genital discs programs the normal development and differentiation of the genital disc by regulating the expression of hh. Hh in turn induces wg and dpp, the genes whose products act as secondary signalling molecules. Moreover, the complementary patterns of wg and dpp expression are essential for the bilateral symmetry and are maintained by mutual repression.