The planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway, a noncanonical Wnt signaling pathway, is crucial for embryonic development in all animals as it is responsible for the regulation of coordinated orientation of structures within the plane of the various epithelia. In the mammalian cochlea, one of the best examples of planar polarity in vertebrates, stereociliary bundles located on mechanosensory hair cells within the sensory epithelium are all uniformly polarized. Generation of this polarity is important for hair cell mechanotransduction and auditory perception as stereociliary bundles are only sensitive to vibrations in their single plane of polarization. We describe the two step developmental process that results in the generation of planar polarity in the mammalian inner ear. Furthermore, we review evidence for the role of Wnt signaling, and the possible generation of a Wnt gradient, in planar polarity.
(c) 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.