Serpins, a superfamily of protease inhibitors, control proteolytic cascades in many physiological processes. Genomic studies have revealed the presence of a high number of serpin-encoding genes in Drosophila melanogaster, but their functions remain largely unknown. In a biochemical screen designed to detect protease inhibitors that may be implicated in early Drosophila development, we identified in embryos a ligand that forms a 67 kDa SDS-stable complex with the broad spectrum protease trypsin. Characterization of this ligand revealed it to be the recently described serpin, Spn5. Expression analysis by in situ and Northern blot hybridization indicated maternal transmission of the transcript as well as zygotic expression in many larval, pupal and adult tissues. Targeted repression by RNA interference did not alter early embryogenesis but resulted in a complete defect in the unfolding and expansion of the wings of freshly eclosed mutant flies, without other detectable effects on development.