The Notch locus is essential for proper differentiation of the ectoderm in Drosophila melanogaster. Notch corresponds to a 37-kilobase transcription unit that codes for a major 10.4-kilobase polyadenylated RNA. The DNA sequence of this transcription unit is presented, except for portions of the two largest intervening sequences. DNA sequences also were obtained from three Notch cDNA clones, allowing the 5' and 3' ends of the gene to be mapped, and the structures and locations of nine RNA coding regions to be determined. The major Notch transcript encodes a protein of 2,703 amino acids. The protein is probably associated with cell surfaces and carries an extracellular domain composed of 36 cysteine-rich repeating units, each of about 38 amino acids. The gene appears to have evolved by repeated tandem duplications of the DNA coding for the 38-amino-acid-long protein segments, followed by insertion of intervening sequences. These repeating protein segments are quite homologous to portions of mammalian clotting factors IX and X and to the product of the Caenorhabditis elegans developmental gene lin-12. They are also similar to mammalian growth hormones, typified by epidermal growth factor.