In Drosophila, maternalstring mRNAs are stable for the first few hours of development, but undergo specific timed degradation at the cellularisation stage. To determine whether the proteins that control this degradation are maternally or zygotically transcribed, we have used in situ hybridisation to determine the fate of maternal string transcripts in mutant embryos which lack individual chromosome arms. Our data indicate that maternal string mRNA persists for the normal period in all these mutants. Using α-amanitin to inhibit zygotic transcription we have shown that degradation of maternal mRNA is unaffected. Therefore, the proteins required to activate the degradation of string mRNA are encoded on a maternally contributed mRNA. We discuss possible models to explain the degradation pathway.