Notch signaling is a highly conserved signaling pathway that coordinates cellular differentiation during the development and homeostasis in numerous organs and tissues across metazoans. Activation of Notch signaling relies on direct contact between neighboring cells and mechanical pulling of the Notch receptors by the Notch ligands. Notch signaling is commonly used in developmental processes to coordinate the differentiation into distinct cell fates of neighboring cells. In this Development at a Glance article, we describe the current understanding of the Notch pathway activation and the different regulatory levels that control the pathway. We then describe several developmental processes where Notch is crucial for coordinating differentiation. These examples include processes that are largely based on lateral inhibition mechanisms giving rise to alternating patterns (e.g. SOP selection, hair cell in the inner ear and neural stem cell maintenance), as well as processes where Notch activity is oscillatory (e.g. somitogenesis and neurogenesis in mammals).
- Lateral inhibition