In protostomes, cell polarity is present after fertilization whereas most deuterostome embryos show minimal polarity during the early cleavages. We now show establishment of cell polarity as early as the first cleavage division in sea urchin embryos. We find, using the apical markers G(M1), integrins, and the aPKC-PAR6 complex, that cells are polarized upon insertion of distinct basolateral membrane at the first division. This early apical-basolateral polarity, similar to that found in much larger cleaving amphibian zygotes, reflects precocious functional epithelial cell polarity. Isolated cleavage blastomeres exhibit polarized actin-dependent fluid phase endocytosis only on the G(M1), integrin, microvillus-containing apical surface. A role for a functional PAR complex in cleavage plane determination was shown with experiments interfering with aPKC activity, which results in several spindle defects and compromised blastula development. These studies suggest that cell and embryonic polarity is established at the first cleavage, mediated in part by the Par complex of proteins, and is achieved by directed insertion of basolateral membrane in the cleavage furrow.