Mutations in a gene called sextra (sxt) have been isolated. Loss of one copy of sxt promotes R7 photoreceptor cell development in a genetically sensitized background, while loss of both copies results in precursors of non-neuronal cone cells transforming into R7 cells. The requirement for sxt function is cell-autonomous. The transformation of cone-cell precursors into R7 cells occurs independently of the sevenless signal. However, the R7 precursor becomes neuronal in an sxt/sxt mutant only in a wild-type sevenless background. The genetic analysis of sxt suggests that it plays an inhibitory role, preventing cone cells from becoming neuronal. Additionally, sxt functions in R7 precursors, but the sevenless signal is essential for specification of this fate, since loss of sextra alone is unable to impart a neural fate to this cell.