At least 13 genes control the establishment of dorsoventral polarity in the Drosophila embryo and more than 30 genes control the anteroposterior pattern of body segments. Each group of genes is thought to control pattern formation along one body axis, independently of the other group. We have used the expression of the fushi tarazu (ftz) segmentation gene as a positional marker to investigate the relationship between the dorsoventral and anteroposterior axes. The ftz gene is normally expressed in seven transverse stripes. Changes in the striped pattern in embryos mutant for other genes (or progeny of females homozygous for maternal-effect mutations) can reveal alterations of cell fate resulting from such mutations. We show that in the absence of any of ten maternal-effect dorsoventral polarity gene functions, the characteristic stripes of ftz protein are altered. Normally there is a difference between ftz stripe spacing on the dorsal and ventral sides of the embryo; in dorsalized mutant embryos the ftz stripes appear to be altered so that dorsal-type spacing occurs on all sides of the embryo. These results indicate that cells respond to dorsoventral positional information in establishing early patterns of gene expression along the anteroposterior axis and that there may be more significant interactions between the different axes of positional information than previously determined.