Carpels are the ovule-bearing structural units in angiosperms. In Arabidopsis, the specification of carpel identity is achieved by at least two separate pathways: a pathway mediated by the C class gene AG and an AG-independent pathway. Both pathways are negatively regulated by A class genes. Two genes, SPT and CRC, can promote differentiation of carpel tissue independently of AG and are thus components of the AG-independent pathway. CRC and SPT appear to act in a redundant manner to promote the differentiation of subsets of carpel tissues. The carpel primordium is subdivided into regional domains, both medial versus lateral and abaxial versus adaxial. Based on morphological and gene expression analyses, it appears likely that these domains define developmental compartments. The medial domain appears fated to differentiate into the marginal tissue types of the carpel (septum with transmitting tract and placenta with ovules), whereas the lateral domain gives rise to the ovary walls. The expression of ETT defines the abaxial domain, and this gene is involved in the abaxial-adaxial and, possibly, the apical-basal patterning of tissues in the carpel. Once regional domains have been established, the differentiation of tissue and cell types occurs. The MADS-box gene FUL and AGLI/5 are involved in the differentiation of specific tissue types in the valves and valve margins. Thus, the genes identified can be arranged in a functional hierarchy: specification of carpel identity, patterning of the carpel primordium and directing the differentiation of the specialized tissues of the carpel.