In transgenic strains of Dictyostelium discoideum that express beta-galactosidase under the control of a prespore-specific promoter, only early slugs show reporter confined to the prespore zone. As slugs migrate beta-galactosidase-positive cells accumulate in the prestalk zone; ultimately, there may be so many that the prestalk-prespore boundary is no longer distinguishable (Harwood, A., Early, A., Jermyn, K. and Williams, J. (1991) Differentiation 46, 7–13). It is not clear whether these ‘anomalous’ reporter-positive cells currently express prespore genes; another possibility is that they are ex-prespore cells that have transformed to prestalk and sorted to the prestalk zone (Sternfeld, J. (1993) Roux Archiv. Dev. Biol. 201, 354–363), while retaining their previously produced reporter. To test the activity of the prespore genes in these cells, we have made prespore reporter constructs whose products decay quickly; these are based on constructs used to investigate protein turnover in yeast (Bachmair, A., Finley, D. and Varshavsky, A. (1986) Science 234, 179–186). In strains bearing such constructs, beta-galactosidase-positive cells do not appear in the prestalk zone. The apparent deterioration of the prestalk/prespore pattern in older slugs is thus an artefact of reporter stability.