Desmocollin 1 expression and desmosomal remodeling during terminal differentiation of human anagen hair follicle: an electron microscopic study

Exp Dermatol. 2004 May;13(5):289-97. doi: 10.1111/j.0906-6705.2004.00152.x.


The terminal differentiation (TD) program of keratinocytes of the human hair follicle (HF) occurs with specific temporal and spatial features in the various layers of the inner root sheath (IRS) and in the innermost layer of the outer root sheath (companion layer). This process is characterized by complex nuclear and cytoplasmic morphological changes, accompanied by profound modifications in intercellular junctions. As no correlation exists between the structure and the molecular composition of desmosomes during TD of the IRS/companion unit, the aim of our study was to investigate by transmission electron microscopy the remodeling of desmosomes in keratinizing cells of these compartments. By immunogold post embedding technique, we studied in anagen HFs the modulation of the synthesis of desmocollin 1 (Dsc1), a transmembrane glycoprotein specifically synthesized in the IRS and in the companion layer. Dsc1 immunoreactivity was actually confined to these compartments and tended to increase just before the level of TD, particularly in the Henle's layer and in the IRS cuticle. In Huxley's layer, the immunolabeling was patchy and in the companion layer Dsc1 synthesis was detected above the level of keratinization of Huxley's layer. In the whole IRS, concomitantly with TD, there was an abrupt and almost complete disappearance of Dsc1 synthesis. An asymmetric distribution of Dsc1 was noticed (i) between cells at different stages of differentiation and (ii) between cells belonging to layers with different spatial/temporal features of TD. Our results show that the ultrastructural modifications of desmosomes during TD of HF are paralleled by the modulation of the synthesis of desmocollin 1.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Desmocollins
  • Desmosomes / chemistry
  • Desmosomes / physiology*
  • Desmosomes / ultrastructure
  • Hair Follicle / cytology
  • Hair Follicle / physiology*
  • Hair Follicle / ultrastructure
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / physiology
  • Keratinocytes / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / analysis
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron


  • DSC1 protein, human
  • Desmocollins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins