Two pathways regulate planar polarity: the core proteins and the Fat-Dachsous-Four-jointed (Ft-Ds-Fj) system. Morphogens specify complementary expression patterns of Ds and Fj that potentially act as polarizing cues. It has been suggested that Ft-Ds-Fj-mediated cues are weak and that the core proteins amplify them [ 1, 2]. Another view is that the two pathways act independently to generate and propagate polarity [ 3, 4]: if correct, this raises the question of how gradients of Ft and Ds expression or activity might be interpreted to provide strong cellular polarizing cues and how such cues are propagated from cell to cell. Here, we demonstrate that the complementary expression of Ds and Fj results in biased Ft and Ds protein distribution across cells, with Ft and Ds accumulating on opposite edges. Furthermore, boundaries of Ft and Ds expression result in subcellular asymmetries in protein distribution that are transmitted to neighboring cells, and asymmetric Ds localization results in a corresponding asymmetric distribution of the myosin Dachs. We show that the generation of subcellular asymmetries of Ft and Ds and the core proteins is largely independent in the wing disc and additionally that ommatidial polarity in the eye can be determined without input from the Ft-Ds-Fj system, consistent with the two pathways acting in parallel.
► Ft and Ds become asymmetrically localized during planar polarity specification ► Ft and Ds asymmetry can be propagated from cell to cell ► Ft and Ds asymmetry promotes Dachs asymmetry and regulates polarity in the proximal wing ► Ft and Ds provide a partial polarity cue in the eye where they can act without Dachs