The let-60 ras gene of Caenorhabditis elegans is required for multiple aspects of development. The vulvar differentiation pathway is the most intensively studied of these, but the ras pathway has now been shown to also be essential for male spicule development. Using vulval differentiation, molecular genetic techniques are now being used to study structure/function relationships of particular signaling components and to identify new positively and negatively acting proteins of Ras-mediated signaling pathways. Mutations affecting LET-23, a receptor tyrosine kinase homolog, which cause tissue-specific defects have been localized to the carboxyl terminus. SH2 domain specificity has been analyzed through Src/SEM-5 chimeric proteins in transgenic nematodes. A mitogen-activated protein kinase that acts downstream of LET-60 Ras in vulval differentiation has been identified. Negative regulatory genes have been cloned and found to encode novel proteins and a clathrin adaptor protein.