The vestigial (vg) gene in D. melanogaster, whose mutant phenotype is characterized by wing atrophy, encodes a novel nuclear protein involved in cell proliferation. The original vg mutant (vgBG) displays massive apoptosis in the wing imaginal disc. Here we tested the hypothesis that the vg mutant phenotype could be due: (i) to lack of cell proliferation in null mutants due to the absence of the Vg product and, (ii) to apoptosis in vgBG and other mutants due to the presence of a major Vg truncated product. In agreement with our hypothesis no cell death was observed in null vg mutants, and the anticell death baculovirus P35 product is unable to rescue the mutant phenotype caused by absence of the Vg product. In addition, expression of the antiproliferative gene dacapo, the homolog of p21, induces a mutant wing phenotype without inducing cell death. In contrast the wing phenotype of the original vg mutant could be reproduced by the ectopic expression of the reaper cell death gene when expressed by vg regulatory sequences. In agreement with the hypothesis, the classic vg mutant spontaneously displays an increase in reaper expression in the wing disc and its phenotype can be partially rescued by the P35 product. Finally, we showed that ectopic expression of a truncated Vg product is able on its own to induce ectopic cell death and reaper expression. Our results shed new light on the function of the vg gene, in particular, they suggest that the normal and truncated products affect vg target genes in different ways.