Notch1 signaling is involved in epithelial growth and differentiation of prostate epithelia, and we have examined the role that notch signaling plays in the stroma of the developing prostate. We initially observed expression of delta-like 1 (Dlk1) and Notch2 in gene profiling studies of prostatic mesenchyme, and anticipated that they might be expressed in a key subset of inductive mesenchyme. Using quantitative RT-PCR, Northern blotting, and whole mount in situ hybridization, we confirmed that both Dlk1 and Notch2 mRNAs showed a restricted expression pattern within subsets of the stroma during prostate development. Localization of Dlk1 and Notch2 proteins mirrored the transcript expression, and showed both distinct and overlapping expression patterns within the stroma. Dlk1 and Notch2 were coexpressed in condensed inductive mesenchyme of the ventral mesenchymal pad (VMP), and were partially colocalized in the smooth muscle (SM) layer of the urethral stroma. In addition, Dlk1 was not expressed in SM adjacent to the VMP in female urethra. The function of notch signaling was examined using organ cultures of prostate rudiments and a small molecule inhibitor of notch receptor activity. Inhibition of notch signaling led to a loss of stromal tissue in both prostate and female VMP cultures, suggesting that this pathway was required for stromal survival. Inhibition of notch signaling also led to changes in both epithelial and stromal differentiation, which was evident in altered distributions of SM alpha-actin and p63 in prostates grown in vitro. The effects of notch signaling upon the stroma were only evident in the presence of testosterone, in contrast to effects upon epithelial differentiation.