A variety of human birth defects originate in failure of closure of the embryonic neural tube. The genetic cause of the most common nonsyndromic defects, spina bifida (SB) or anencephaly, is considered to be combinations of variants at multiple genes. The genes contributing to the etiology of neural tube closure defects (NTDs) are unknown. Mutations in planar cell polarity (PCP) genes in mice cause a variety of defects including the NTD, craniorachischisis, and sometimes SB or exencephaly (EX); they also demonstrate the role of digenic combinations of PCP mutants in NTDs. Recent studies have sought rare predicted-to-be-deleterious alterations (putative mutations) in coding sequence of PCP genes in human cases with various anomalies of the neural tube. This review summarizes the cumulative results of these studies according to a framework based on the embryopathogenesis of NTDs, and considers some of the insights from the approaches used and the limitations. Rare putative mutations in the PCP genes VANGL2, SCRIB, DACT1, and CELSR1 cumulatively contributed to over 20% of cases with craniorachischisis, a rare defect; no contributing variants were found for PRICKLE1 or PTK7. PCP rare putative mutations had a weaker role in myelomeningocele (SB), being found in approximately 6% of cases and cumulated across CELSR1, FUZ, FZD6, PRICKLE1, VANGL1, and VANGL2. These results demonstrate that PCP gene alterations contribute to the etiology of human NTDs. We recommend that future research should explore other types of PCP gene variant such as regulatory mutations and low frequency (1 to 5%) deleterious polymorphisms. Birth Defects Research (Part A) 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.