Transfer cells are plant cells with secondary wall ingrowths. These cells are ubiquitous, occurring in all plant taxonomic groups and in algae and fungi. Transfer cells form from differentiated cells across developmental windows and in response to stress. They are considered to play a central role in nutrient distribution by facilitating high rates of transport at bottlenecks for apo-/symplasmic solute exchange. These properties are conferred by their unique structural features - an invaginated secondary wall ensheathed by an amplified area of plasma membrane enriched in a suite of solute transporters. Recent development of transfer cell experimental systems, combined with technologies to image the three-dimensional structure of wall ingrowths, is allowing identification of inductive and regulatory signals, discovery of sequential processes involved in their differentiation, and a search for transfer cell identity genes. A model of key events in differentiation of a transfer cell is presented to highlight areas for future investigation.