The development of the mammalian cochlea is an example of patterning in the peripheral nervous system. Sensory hair cells and supporting cells in the cochlea differentiate via regional and cell fate specification. The Notch signaling components shows both distinct and overlapping expression patterns of Notch1 receptor and its ligands Jagged1 (Jag1) and Jagged2 (Jag2) in the developing auditory epithelium of the rat. On embryonic day 16 (E16), many precursor cells within the Kolliker's organ immunostained for the presence of both Notch1 and Jag1, while the area of hair cell precursors did not express either Notch1 and Jag1. During initial events of hair cell differentiation between E18 and birth, Notch1 and Jag1 expression predominated in supporting cells and Jag2 in nascent hair cells. Early after birth, Jag2 expression decreased in hair cells while the pattern of Notch1 expression now included both supporting cells and hair cells. We show that the normal pattern of hair cell differentiation is disrupted by alteration of Notch signaling. A decrease of either Notch1 or Jag1 expression by antisense oligonucleotides in cultures of the developing sensory epithelium resulted in an increase in the number of hair cells. Our data suggest that the Notch1 signaling pathway is involved in a complex interplay between the consequences of different ligand-Notch1 combinations during cochlear morphogenesis and the phases of hair cell differentiation.