In vertebrates, a tyrosine kinase activity has been identified as an integral component of growth factor receptors and the products of proto-oncogenes. Many of these receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) appear to play a key role in the regulation of cell growth. Recent analyses of several Drosophila genes encoding putative RTKs indicate that this class of proteins also plays an important role in decisions about cell fate that depend on cellular interactions during development. The sevenless RTK mediates the position-dependent specification of a particular photoreceptor cell type (R7) in the eye. The local specification of R7 cells requires a functional tyrosine kinase domain of the sevenless protein but does not depend on the spatially restricted expression of the sevenless gene. The Drosophila EGF receptor homologue serves multiple functions during development, some of which are clearly unrelated to regulation of cell growth. Finally, the torso gene encodes an RTK required for the specification of the terminal regions of the Drosophila larva. A number of other genes have been genetically identified that appear to function in the same developmental processes upstream or downstream of these three RTKs. These loci are excellent candidates for genes encoding other components of the signalling pathways, such as ligands or substrates of the RTKs.