The planar coordination of cellular polarization is an important, yet not well-understood aspect of animal development. In a screen for genes regulating planar cell polarization in Drosophila, we identified Rab23, encoding a putative vesicular trafficking protein. Mutations in the Drosophila Rab23 ortholog result in abnormal trichome orientation and the formation of multiple hairs on the wing, leg, and abdomen. We show that Rab23 is required for hexagonal packing of the wing cells. We found that Rab23 is able to associate with the proximally accumulated Prickle protein, although Rab23 itself does not seem to display a polarized subcellular distribution in wing cells, and it appears to play a relatively subtle role in cortical polarization of the polarity proteins. The absence of Rab23 leads to increased actin accumulation in the subapical region of the pupal wing cells that fail to restrict prehair initiation to a single site. Rab23 acts as a dominant enhancer of the weak multiple hair phenotype exhibited by the core polarity mutations, whereas the Rab23 homozygous mutant phenotype is sensitive to the gene dose of the planar polarity effector genes. Together, our data suggest that Rab23 contributes to the mechanism that inhibits hair formation at positions outside of the distal vertex by activating the planar polarity effector system.
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