Studies of the abnormal oocyte (abo) gene of Drosophila melanogaster have previously been limited to the analysis of a single mutant allele, abnormal oocyte1 (abo1). The abo1 mutation causes a maternal-effect lethality that can be partially rescued zygotically by the abo+ allele and by increasing the dosage of specific regions of heterochromatin denoted ABO. This report describes the properties of abo2, a new P-element-induced allele that allowed us to reexamine the nature of maternal-effect defect. Comparisons of the phenotype of progeny of abo1/abo1 and abo1/abo2 females show that the preblastoderm lethality previously described as a component of the abo mutant maternal effect results from a recessive fertilization defect associated with the abo1 chromosome. We demonstrate here that the abo-induced maternal effect lethality occurs predominately late in embryogenesis after cuticle deposition but before hatching. The phenocritical period for zygotic rescue by heterochromatin coincides with this period of late embryogenesis. We have used the abo2 mutation to map and molecularly clone the gene. We show that the abo gene is located in the 32C cytogenetic interval and identify the putative abo transcript from mRNA isolated from adult females. Using germline transformation, we show that a 9-kb genomic fragment to which the transcript maps, partially fulfills requirement for maternal and zygotic abo+ function.