The Drosophila brahma (brm) gene encodes an activator of homeotic genes related to the yeast chromatin remodeling factor SWI2/SNF2. Here, we report the phenotype of null and dominant-negative brm mutations. Using mosaic analysis, we found that the complete loss of brm function decreases cell viability and causes defects in the peripheral nervous system of the adult. A dominant-negative brm mutation was generated by replacing a conserved lysine in the ATP-binding site of the BRM protein with an arginine. This mutation eliminates brm function in vivo but does not affect assembly of the 2-MD BRM complex. Expression of the dominant-negative BRM protein caused peripheral nervous system defects, homeotic transformations, and decreased viability. Consistent with these findings, the BRM protein is expressed at relatively high levels in nuclei throughout the developing organism. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to investigate the functions of conserved regions of the BRM protein. Domain II is essential for brm function and is required for the assembly or stability of the BRM complex. In spite of its conservation in numerous eukaryotic regulatory proteins, the deletion of the bromodomain of the BRM protein has no discernible phenotype.