The best studied mutations at the Notch locus produce a neurogenic phenotype, with a massive overgrowth of the nervous system at the expense of epidermis. We report here that, in the development of the adult peripheral nervous system, the Abruptex alleles of Notch have the opposite phenotype, namely an underproduction of sensory organs or sensilla. This arises primarily not from an arrest of the lineages that produce sensilla, from the degeneration of sensillar cells, or from the transformation into neurons of cells that normally secrete the cuticular components of a sensillum (as can happen in Notch alleles). Rather, our evidence argues strongly that the sensillar mother cells never form. This implies that the Notch protein plays a role in the process that first generates a difference between sensillar mother cells and ordinary epidermal cells. The number of sensilla formed on the wing of flies carrying multiple doses of Notch+ is virtually the same as that of wild type, i.e. the Abruptex phenotype is not reproduced to any significant extent. This suggests that the single amino acid substitutions that occur in Abruptex mutants confer on the protein some functionally distinctive feature, possibly more powerful intermolecular binding or altered stability.