A trans-acting regulatory gene, Inr-a, that alters the level of expression of the white eye color locus as an inverse function of the number of its functional copies is described. Several independent lines of evidence demonstrate that this regulatory gene interacts with white via the promoter sequences. Among these are the observations that the inverse regulatory effect is conferred to the Adh gene when fused to the white promoter and that cis-regulatory mutants of white fail to respond. The phenotypic response to Inr-a is found in all tissues in which white is expressed, and mutants of the regulator exhibit a recessive lethality during larval periods. Increased white messenger RNA levels in pupal stages are found in Inr-a/+ individuals versus +/+ and a coordinate response is observed for mRNA levels from the brown and scarlet loci. All are structurally related and participate in pigment deposition. These experiments demonstrate that a single regulatory gene can exert an inverse effect on a target structural locus, a situation postulated from segmental aneuploid studies of gene expression and dosage compensation.