The stable determination of different anterior-posterior regions of the Drosophila embryo is controlled by the persistent expression of homeotic selector genes. One mechanism that has been proposed to explain the persistent expression of the homeotic gene Deformed is an autoactivation circuit that would be used once Deformed expression had been established by earlier acting patterning genes. Here we show that a large cis-regulatory element mapping approximately 5 kb upstream of the Deformed transcription start has the properties predicted for a Deformed autoregulatory enhancer. This element provides late, spatially localized expression in the epidermal cells of the maxillary and mandibular segments which is wholly dependent upon endogenous Deformed function. In addition, the autoregulatory enhancer can be activated ectopically in embryos and in imaginal disc cells by ectopic expression of Deformed protein. Deletion analysis of the autoregulatory element indicates that it contains compartment specific sub-elements similar to those of other homeotic loci.