The eyes absent (eya) gene is critical for normal eye development in Drosophila and is highly conserved to vertebrates. To define regions of the gene critical for eye function, we have defined the mutations in the four viable eya alleles. Two of these mutations are eye specific and undergo transvection with other mutations in the gene. These were found to be deletion mutations that remove regulatory sequence critical for eye cell expression of the gene. Two other viable alleles cause a reduced eye phenotype and affect the function of the gene in additional tissues, such as the ocelli. These mutations were found to be insertion mutations of different transposable elements within the 5' UTR of the transcript. Detailed analysis of one of these revealed that the transposable element has become subject to regulation by eye enhancer sequences of the eya gene, disrupting normal expression of EYA in the eye. More extended analysis of the deletion region in the eye-specific alleles indicated that the deleted region defines an enhancer that activates gene expression in eye progenitor cells. This enhancer is responsive to ectopic expression of the eyeless gene. This analysis has defined a critical regulatory region required for proper eye expression of the eya gene.