We have developed an approach for the in situ detection of genomic elements that regulate transcription zin Drosophila melanogaster. The approach is analogous to a powerful method of bacterial genetics, the random generation of operon fusions, that enables the isolation and characterization of genes simply by knowing or postulating their pattern of expression; it is not necessary initially to screen for mutant phenotypes. To apply this approach to Drosophila, we have used the expression of the lacZ gene of Escherichia coli from the P-element promoter in germ-line transformant flies to screen for chromosomal elements that can act at a distance to stimulate expression from this apparently weak promoter. Of 49 transformed fly lines obtained, approximately 70% show some type of spatially regulated expression of the lacZ gene in embryos; many of these express lacZ specifically in the nervous system. The P-lacZ fusion gene is, therefore, an efficient tool for the recovery of elements that may regulate gene expression in Drosophila and for the generation of a wide variety of cell-type-specific markers.