When the protein encoded by the period (per) gene, which influences circadian rhythms in Drosophila melanogaster, was labeled with an anti- per antibody in adult flies sectioned at different times of day, regular fluctuations in the intensity of immunoreactivity were observed in cells of the visual system and central brain. These fluctuations persisted in constant darkness. Time courses of the changing levels of staining were altered in the per-short mutant: in light/dark cycles, the phase was earlier than in wild-type, and in constant darkness the period was shorter. In a per-long mutant and in behaviorally subnormal germline transformants (involving transduced per DNA), staining intensities were much fainter than in wild-type. Factors involved in initiating or maintaining the per protein cycling were investigated by examining the immunoreactivity in visual system mutants and by exposing wild-type flies to altered light/dark regimes. These genetic and environmental manipulations affected the expression of the per protein in ways that usually parallelled their effects on circadian behaviors.