RNA editing increases during development in more than 20 transcripts encoding proteins involved in rapid synaptic neurotransmission in Drosophila central nervous system and muscle. Adar (adenosine deaminase acting on RNA) mutant flies expressing only genome-encoded, unedited isoforms of ion-channel subunits are viable but show severe locomotion defects. The Adar transcript itself is edited in adult wild-type flies to generate an isoform with a serine to glycine substitution close to the ADAR active site. We show that editing restricts ADAR function since the edited isoform of ADAR is less active in vitro and in vivo than the genome-encoded, unedited isoform. Ubiquitous expression in embryos and larvae of an Adar transcript that is resistant to editing is lethal. Expression of this transcript in embryonic muscle is also lethal, with above-normal, adult-like levels of editing at sites in a transcript encoding a muscle voltage-gated calcium channel.