Changing patterns of localization of putative stem cells in developing human hair follicles

J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Feb;114(2):321-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.2000.00857.x.


In rodents, the hair follicle stem cells lie in a well-defined bulge in the outer root sheath; however, the bulge as a stem cell site of human hair follicle epithelium is still controversial. Epidermal stem cells are thought to express high levels of beta1 integrin and low levels of E-cadherin and beta- and gamma-catenin. In order to clarify the ontogenic distribution of possible stem cells during hair follicle development, the expression patterns of beta1 integrin subunits, E-cadherin, and beta- and gamma-catenins in the skin samples from human fetuses of a series of estimated gestational ages (EGA) were examined. beta1 integrin-rich, E-cadherin-, and beta- and gamma-catenin-poor cells, possible stem cells, were localized to the entire hair germ (65-84 d EGA) and later to the outermost cells of hair peg (85-104 d EGA). In the bulbous hair peg (105-135 d EGA) and in the differentiated lanugo hair follicle (>135 d EGA), they were settled in the bulge and the outermost layer of the outer root sheath. This sequential localization was similar to that of cells rich in epidermal growth factor receptor expression and positive with keratin 19, a putative marker of epidermal stem cells. In addition, these beta1 integrin-rich, E-cadherin-, and beta- and gamma-catenin-poor cells showed similar, undifferentiated morphologic features by electron microscopy. This information of ontogenic localization of possible hair follicle stem cells contributes to the further understanding of mechanisms of human hair follicle morphogenesis and supports the idea that the human fetal hair follicle bulge is a site of stem cells for follicular epithelium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cadherins / analysis
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / analysis
  • Desmoplakins
  • Hair Follicle / chemistry
  • Hair Follicle / cytology*
  • Hair Follicle / embryology
  • Humans
  • Integrin beta1 / analysis
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Morphogenesis
  • Stem Cells / chemistry
  • Trans-Activators*
  • beta Catenin
  • gamma Catenin


  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Desmoplakins
  • Integrin beta1
  • JUP protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • beta Catenin
  • gamma Catenin
  • Keratins