Estrogens are known to play a role in both reproductive and non-reproductive functions in mammals. Estrogens and their receptors are involved in the development of the central nervous system (brain development, neuronal survival and differentiation) as well as in the development of the peripheral nervous system (sensory-motor behaviors). In order to decipher possible functions of estrogens in early development of the zebrafish sensory system, we investigated the role of estrogen receptor beta(2) (ERbeta(2)) by using a morpholino (MO) approach blocking erbeta(2) RNA translation. We further investigated the development of lateral line organs by cell-specific labeling, which revealed a disrupted development of neuromasts in morphants. The supporting cells developed and migrated normally. Sensory hair cells, however, were absent in morphants' neuromasts. Microarray analysis and subsequent in situ hybridizations indicated an aberrant activation of the Notch signaling pathway in ERbeta(2) morphants. We conclude that signaling via ERbeta(2) is essential for hair cell development and may involve an interaction with the Notch signaling pathway during cell fate decision in the neuromast maturation process.