The Jun kinase (JNK) pathway has been characterized for its role in stimulating AP-1 activity and for modulating the balance between cell growth and death during development, inflammation, and cancer. Six families of mammalian kinases acting at the level of JNKKK have emerged as upstream regulators of JNK activity (MLK, LZK, TAK, ASK, MEKK, and TPL); however, the specificity underlying which kinase is utilized for transducing a distinct signal is poorly understood. In Drosophila, JNK signaling plays a central role in dorsal closure, controlling cell fate and cell sheet morphogenesis during embryogenesis. Notably, in the fly genome, there are single homologs of each of the mammalian JNKKK families. Here, we identify mutations in one of those, a mixed lineage kinase, named slipper (slpr), and show that it is required for JNK activation during dorsal closure. Furthermore, our results show that other putative JNKKKs cannot compensate for the loss of slpr function and, thus, may regulate other JNK or MAPK-dependent processes.