Mutations in the Drosophila miniature-dusky ( m-dy) gene complex were first reported by Morgan and Bridges about 90 years ago. m-dy mutants have abnormally small wings, a phenotype attributed to a cell-autonomous reduction in the size of the epidermal cells comprising the differentiated wing. Using a molecular genetic approach, we have characterized the m-dy chromosomal interval and identified a pair of adjacent transcription units corresponding to m and dy. A dy mutant known as dy (And) has a single base substitution within the protein-coding region that is predicted to result in an amber stop codon and premature translational termination. We show that dy mRNA is expressed at two discrete periods during the life cycle--one during embryonic development and early larval instars, the second during adult development, coincident with wing differentiation. In agreement with the phenotypic similarity of m and dy mutants, sequence comparisons reveal a similarity between the predicted MINIATURE and DUSKY proteins, and indicate that the m and dy genes are members of a larger Drosophila gene family. Both m and dy, as well as other members of this superfamily, are predicted to encode transmembrane proteins with similarity to C. elegans cuticle proteins known as cuticulins. We postulate that m, dy and other members of this protein superfamily function as structural components of the Drosophila cuticulin layer. Such a role for m and dy products in wing differentiation is sufficient to explain the morphological phenotypes associated with m-dy mutants.