In this study we provide a cytological and genetic characterization of the JIL-1 locus in Drosophila. JIL-1 is an essential chromosomal tandem kinase and in JIL-1 null animals chromatin structure is severely perturbed. Using a range of JIL-1 hypomorphic mutations, we show that they form an allelic series. JIL-1 has a strong maternal effect and JIL-1 activity is required at all stages of development, including embryonic, larval, and pupal stages. Furthermore, we identified a new allele of JIL-1, JIL-1(h9), that encodes a truncated protein missing COOH-terminal sequences. Remarkably, the truncated JIL-1 protein can partially restore viability without rescuing the defects in polytene chromosome organization. This suggests that sequences within this region of JIL-1 play an important role in establishing and/or maintaining normal chromatin structure. By analyzing the effects of JIL-1 mutations we provide evidence that JIL-1 function is necessary for the normal progression of several developmental processes at different developmental stages such as oogenesis and segment specification. We propose that JIL-1 may exert such effects by a general regulation of chromatin structure affecting gene expression.