Studies of C. elegans vulval development provide insights into the process of pattern formation during animal development. The invariant pattern of vulval precursor cell fates is specified by the integration of at least two signaling systems. Recent findings suggest that multiple, partially redundant mechanisms are involved in patterning the vulval precursor cells. The inductive signal activates the LET-60/RAS signaling pathway and induces the 1 degree fate, whereas the lateral signal mediated by LIN-12/Notch is required for specification of the 2 degrees fate. Several regulatory pathways antagonize the RAS signaling pathway and specify the non-vulval 3 degrees fate in the absence of induction. The temporal and spatial regulation of VPC competence and production of the inductive and the lateral signal are precisely coordinated to ensure the wild-type vulval pattern.