The hetN gene plays an important role in heterocyst differentiation and pattern formation. An immunoblotting study showed that the hetN gene in Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 was expressed in vegetative cells grown with combined nitrogen. After a switch to a medium without combined nitrogen, hetN expression first declined and was then followed by a rapid increase in its product, HetN, which was only present in mature heterocysts. HetN is located on both thylakoid membranes and plasma membranes as determined by immunoblotting using purified membranes. Overexpression of hetN completely prevented hetR up-regulation under nitrogen-deprivation conditions, suggesting that its role in pattern control may depend on its inhibition of hetR expression.