The Drosophila sex-determination switch gene Sex-lethal (Sxl) and the X-chromosome signal element genes (XSEs) that induce the female-specific expression of Sxl are transcribed extremely early in development when most of the genome of this organism is still silent. The DNA sequence CAGGTAG had been implicated in this pre-cellular blastoderm activation of sex-determination genes. A genome-wide computational search, reported here, suggested that CAGGTAG is not specific to early sex-determination genes, since it is over-represented upstream of most genes that are transcribed pre-cellular blastoderm, not just those involved in sex determination. The same search identified similarly over-represented, one-base-pair degenerate sequences as possible functional synonyms of CAGGTAG. We call these heptamers collectively, the TAGteam. Relevance of the TAGteam sequences to pre-cellular blastoderm transcription was established through analysis of TAGteam changes in Sxl, scute (an XSE), and the ;ventral repression element' of the pattern-formation gene zerknüllt. Decreasing the number of TAGteam sites retarded the onset of pre-blastoderm transcription, whereas increasing their number correlated with an advanced onset. Titration of repressors was thought to be the rate-limiting step determining the onset of such early transcription, but this TAGteam dose effect shows that activators must also play an important role in the timing of pre-blastoderm gene expression.