The Drosophila melanogaster flightless I protein and its homologues in higher eukaryotes (FliI) are conserved members of the gelsolin family of actin-binding proteins. Members of the gelsolin family generally contain three or six copies of a 125-amino-acid residue gelsolin-related repeating unit, and may contain additional domains including the C-terminal villin-related 'headpiece' or N-terminal extensions such as the leucine-rich repeat of the FliI protein. Numerous studies including work done with mouse knockouts for gelsolin, villin and CapG support a role for the family in cytoskeletal actin dynamics. In both fruitfly and mouse, the FliI protein is also essential for early development. Recent studies indicate that supervillin, gelsolin and FliI are involved in intracellular signalling via nuclear hormone receptors including the androgen, oestrogen and thyroid hormone receptors. This unexpected role in signalling has opened a new area in research on the gelsolin family and is providing important new insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation via nuclear receptors.