Cell-fate specification of R7 photoreceptors in the developing Drosophila eye depends on an inductive signal from neighbouring R8 cells. Mutations in three genes, sevenless (sev), bride-of-sevenless (boss) and seven-in-absentia (sina) cause the R7 precursor to become a non-neural cone cell. The sev gene encodes a receptor protein tyrosine kinase (Sev) localized on the R7 surface, activated by a boss-encoded ligand presented by R8. The sina gene encodes a nuclear factor required in R7. Reduction in the dosage of the Ras1 gene impairs Sev-mediated signalling, suggesting that activation of Ras1 may be an important consequence of Sev activation. We report here that Ras1 activation may account for all of the signalling action of Sev; an activated Ras1Va112 protein rescues the normal R7 precursor from transformation into a cone cell in sev and boss null mutants and induces the formation of supernumerary R7 cells. Similar activation of the Drosophila Ras2 protein does not produce these effects, demonstrating Ras protein specificity.