Progress and challenges in understanding planar cell polarity signaling

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2009 Oct;20(8):964-71. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2009.08.001. Epub 2009 Aug 7.


During development, epithelial cells in some tissues acquire a polarity orthogonal to their apical-basal axis. This polarity, referred to as planar cell polarity (PCP), or tissue polarity, is essential for the normal physiological function of many epithelia. Early studies of PCP focused on insect epithelia (Lawrence, 1966 [1]), and the earliest genetic analyses were carried out in Drosophila (Held et al., 1986; Gubb and Garcia-Bellido, 1982 [2,3]). Indeed, most of our mechanistic understanding of PCP derives from the ongoing use of Drosophila as a model system. However, a range of medically important developmental defects and physiological processes are under the control of PCP mechanisms that appear to be at least partially conserved, driving considerable interest in studying PCP both in Drosophila and in vertebrate model systems. Here, I present a model of the PCP signaling mechanism based on studies in Drosophila. I highlight two areas in which our understanding is deficient, and which lead to current confusion in the literature. Future studies that shed light on these areas will substantially enhance our understanding of the fascinating yet challenging problem of understanding the mechanisms that generate PCP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Drosophila Proteins