The orphan nuclear receptor COUP-TFI (Nr2f1) regulates many aspects of mammalian development, but little is known about its role in cochlear hair cell and Deiter's support cell development. The COUP-TFI knockout (COUP-TFI(-/-)) has a significant increase in hair cell (HC) number in the mid-to-apical turns. The total number of hair cells is not increased over wild type, perhaps because of displaced hair cells and a shortened cochlear duct. This implicates a defect of convergent-extension in the COUP-TFI(-/-) duct. In addition, excess proliferation in the COUP-TFI(-/-) sensory epithelium indicates that the origin of the extra HCs in the apex is complex. Because loss-of-function studies of Notch signaling components have similar phenotypes, we investigated Notch regulation of hair cell differentiation in COUP-TFI(-/-) mice and confirmed misregulation of Notch signaling components, including Jag1, Hes5 and in a manner consistent with reduced Notch signaling, and correlated with increases in hair cell and support cell differentiation. The disruption of Notch signaling by a gamma-secretase inhibitor in an in vitro organ culture system of wild-type cochleae resulted in a reduction in expression of the Notch target gene Hes5 and an increase in hair cell differentiation. Importantly, inhibition of Notch activity resulted in a greater increase in hair cell differentiation in COUP-TFI(-/-) cochlear cultures than in wild-type cultures, suggesting a hypersensitivity to Notch inactivation in COUP-TFI(-/-) cochlea, particularly at the apical turn. Thus, we present evidence that reduced Notch signaling contributes to increases in hair cell and support cell differentiation in COUP-TFI(-/-) mice, and suggest that COUP-TFI is required for Notch regulation of hair cell and support cell differentiation.