The asymmetry of the dorsal-ventral pattern of the Drosophila embryo appears to depend on the ventral activation of the transmembrane Toll protein. The Toll protein is found around the entire dorsal-ventral circumference of the embryo, and it appears to act as a receptor for a ventral, extracellular signal and to then relay that signal to the cytoplasm in ventral regions of the embryo. Three of five recessive loss-of-function alleles of Toll are caused by point mutations in the region of the cytoplasmic domain of Toll that is similar to the mammalian interleukin-1 receptor, supporting the hypothesis that Toll acts as a signal-transducing receptor. Nine dominant gain-of-function alleles that cause Toll to be active in dorsal, as well as ventral, regions of the embryo are caused by mutations in the extracellular domain. Three of the dominant alleles appear to cause the protein to be constitutively active and are caused by cysteine-to-tyrosine changes immediately outside the transmembrane domain. All six of the remaining dominant alleles require the presence of a wild-type transmembrane Toll protein for their ventralizing effect and all encode truncated proteins that lack the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains.