The dauer larva is a developmentally arrested, non-feeding dispersal stage normally formed in response to overcrowding and limited food. The daf-1 gene specifies an intermediate step in a hierarchy of genes thought to specify a pathway for neural transduction of environmental cues. Mutations in daf-1 result in constitutive formation of dauer larvae even in abundant food. This gene has been cloned by Tc1-transposon tagging, and it appears to encode a new class of serine/threonine kinase. A daf-1 probe detects a 2.5 kb mRNA of low abundance, and the DNA sequence indicates that the gene encodes a 669 amino acid protein, with a putative transmembrane domain and a C-terminal protein kinase domain most closely related to the cytosolic, raf proto-oncogene family. Hence, the daf-1 product appears to be a cell-surface receptor required for transduction of environmental signals into an appropriate developmental response.