The maternal determinants of dorsoventral polarity of the Drosophila embryo are derived from somatic and germ-line components of the egg chamber. During oogenesis, asymmetry seems to be established by a signal transduction process. This process is thought to provide the developing embryo with a ventral signal responsible for determining the embryonic axis. Through a set of interactions that may involve signal transduction and proteolytic cascade events, positional information is generated in the form of a graded distribution of dorsal protein in blastoderm nuclei. Different levels of dorsal protein result in asymmetric expression of zygotic genes that ultimately specify cell fate.