The transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) family of growth factors control the development and homeostasis of most tissues in metazoan organisms. Work over the past few years has led to the elucidation of a TGF-beta signal transduction network. This network involves receptor serine/threonine kinases at the cell surface and their substrates, the SMAD proteins, which move into the nucleus, where they activate target gene transcription in association with DNA-binding partners. Distinct repertoires of receptors, SMAD proteins, and DNA-binding partners seemingly underlie, in a cell-specific manner, the multifunctional nature of TGF-beta and related factors. Mutations in these pathways are the cause of various forms of human cancer and developmental disorders.