A key step in the development of all multicellular organisms is the differentiation of specialized cell types. The eukaryotic microorganism Dictyostelium discoideum provides a unique experimental system for studying cell-type determination and spatial patterning in a developing multicellular organism. Unlike metazoans, which become multicellular by undergoing many rounds of cell division after fertilization of an egg, the social amoeba Dictyostelium achieves multicellularity by the aggregation of approximately 10(5) cells in response to nutrient depletion. Following aggregation, cell-type differentiation and morphogenesis result in a multicellular organism with only a few cell types that exhibit a defined patterning along the anterior-posterior axis of the organism. Analysis of the mechanisms that control these processes is facilitated by the relative simplicity of Dictyostelium development and the availability of molecular, genetic, and cell biological tools. Interestingly, analysis has shown that many molecules that play integral roles in the development of higher eukaryotes, such as PKA, STATs, and GSK-3, are also essential for cell-type differentiation and patterning in Dictyostelium. The role of these and other signaling pathways in the induction, maintenance, and patterning of cell types during Dictyostelium development is discussed.