SUMMARY Sponges (Porifera) represent the evolutionary oldest multicellular animals. They are provided with the basic molecules involved in cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. We report here the isolation and characterization of a complementary DNA from the sponge Suberites domuncula coding for the sponge homeobox gene, SUBDOIRX-a. The deduced polypeptide with a predicted Mr of 44,375 possesses the highly conserved Iroquois-homeodomain. We applied in situ hybridization to localize Iroquois in the sponge. The expression of this gene is highest in cells adjacent to the canals of the sponge in the medulla region. To study the expression of Iroquois during development, the in vitro primmorph system from S. domuncula was used. During the formation of these three-dimensional aggregates composed of proliferating cells, the expression of Iroquois depends on ferric iron and water current. An increased expression in response to water current is paralleled with the formation of canal-like pores in the primmorphs. It is suggested that Iroquois expression is involved in the formation of the aquiferous system, the canals in sponges and the canal-like structures in primmorphs.