The selector gene apterous (ap) plays a key role during the development of the Drosophila melanogaster wing because it governs the establishment of the dorsal-ventral (D-V) compartment boundary. The D-V compartment boundary is known to serve as an important signaling center that is essential for the growth of the wing. The role of Ap and its downstream effectors have been studied extensively. However, very little is known about the transcriptional regulation of ap during wing disc development. In this study, we present a first characterization of an essential wing-specific ap enhancer. First, we defined an 874-bp fragment about 10 kb upstream of the ap transcription start that faithfully recapitulates the expression pattern of ap in the wing imaginal disc. Analysis of deletions in the ap locus covering this element demonstrated that it is essential for proper regulation of ap and formation of the wing. Moreover, we showed that the mutations ap(blot) and ap(Xasta) directly affect the integrity of this enhancer, leading to characteristic wing phenotypes. Furthermore, we engineered an in situ rescue system at the endogenous ap gene locus, allowing us to investigate the role of enhancer fragments in their native environment. Using this system, we were able to demonstrate that the essential wing enhancer alone is not sufficient for normal wing development. The in situ rescue system will allow us to characterize the ap regulatory sequences in great detail at the endogenous locus.