The TAK kinases belong to the MAPKKK group and have been implicated in a variety of signaling events. Originally described as a TGF-beta activated kinase (TAK) it has, however, subsequently been demonstrated to signal through p38, Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and Nemo types of MAP kinases, and the NFkappaB inducing kinase. Despite these multiple proposed functions, the in vivo role of TAK family kinases remains unclear. Here we report the isolation and genetic characterization of the Drosophila TAK homologue (dTAK). By employing overexpression and double-stranded RNA interference (RNAi) techniques we have analyzed its function during embryogenesis and larval development. Overexpression of dTAK in the embryonic epidermis is sufficient to induce the transcription of the JNK target genes decapentaplegic and puckered. Furthermore, overexpression of dominant negative (DN) or wild-type forms of dTAK in wing and eye imaginal discs, respectively, results in defects in thorax closure and ommatidial planar polarity, two well described phenotypes associated with JNK signaling activity. Surprisingly, RNAi and DN-dTAK expression studies in the embryo argue for a differential requirement of dTAK during developmental processes controlled by JNK signaling, and a redundant or minor role of dTAK in dorsal closure. In addition, dTAK-mediated activation of JNK in the Drosophila eye imaginal disc leads to an eye ablation phenotype due to ectopically induced apoptotic cell death. Genetic analyses in the eye indicate that dTAK can also act through the p38 and Nemo kinases in imaginal discs. Our results suggest that dTAK can act as a JNKKK upstream of JNK in multiple contexts and also other MAPKs in the eye. However, the loss-of-function RNAi studies indicate that it is not strictly required and thus either redundant or playing only a minor role in the context of embryonic dorsal closure.