We have discovered a new member of the class of genes controlling embryonic dorsoventral patterning. Mutants of the thick veins (tkv) gene have been described previously (as slater alleles) as embryonic lethal, lacking dorsal epidermis, but not as showing a recognizable dorsoventral phenotype. We show here that maternal alteration of function coupled with zygotic reduction of function of tkv is strongly ventralizing. In addition, in double heterozygous combinations in the mother, tkv mutations increase the ventralizing effect of dominant, weakly ventralizing alleles of the maternal effect, dorsoventral genes easter and cactus. An interaction is also seen with zygotic dorsoventral genes: tkv interacts maternally and zygotically in double heterozygotes with decapentaplegic and zygotically with screw in double homozygotes. We conclude that both maternally and zygotically supplied wild-type tkv product can play a role in dorsoventral patterning of the early embryo. On the basis of the phenotype of trans-heterozygous adult escapers, we propose that tkv might act by potentiating the activity of the zygotically acting decapentaplegic gene.