The maternal effect phenotypes of recessive mutations at the Drosophila zygotic lethal gene l(1)discs-large-1 (l(1)dlg-1) are described. L(1)dlg-1 is located in 10B7-8 on the salivary gland chromosome map. A complex complementation pattern is observed among the nine characterized alleles. Larvae missing zygotic l(1)dlg-1+ gene activity die due to aberrant growth of imaginal cells at the larval-pupal transition. Embryos lacking both maternal and zygotic activity of l(1)dlg-1+, i.e., embryos derived from homozygous l(1)dlg-1 germ line clones for null alleles, show neurogenesis and morphogenesis defects that result in very abnormal embryos. Although differentiated, most tissues are morphologically misshapen. This maternal effect is rescuable to some extent. One allele, l(1)dlg-1HF321, is a temperature-sensitive mutation for the zygotic lethality. Embryos derived from homozygous l(1)dlg-1HF321 females at 18 degrees C exhibit defects associated with dorsal closure and head involution. More extreme phenotypes are observed when females are shifted to higher temperatures and include defective dorsal closure, collapse of the somatic musculature, and an oversized central nervous system. The possible involvement of the recessive oncogene l(1)dlg-1 in cell adhesion is discussed.