Expression of the hair stem cell-specific marker nestin in epidermal and follicular tumors

Eur J Dermatol. 2008 Sep-Oct;18(5):518-23. doi: 10.1684/ejd.2008.0485. Epub 2008 Aug 8.


Nestin, a marker of neural stem cells, is expressed in the stem cells of the mouse hair follicle. The nestin-expressing hair follicle stem cells give rise to the outer-root sheath. Nestin-expressing hair follicle stem cells that are negative for the keratinocyte marker keratin 15 (K15) can differentiate into neurons, glia, keratinocytes, smooth muscle cells, and melanocytes in vitro. Recent studies suggest that the epithelial stem cells are important in tumorigenesis. In this study, we immunohistochemically examined the expression of three hair follicle stem cell and progenitor cell markers, nestin, K15, and CD34, in normal human epidermis and hair follicles and in epidermal and follicular tumors, trichilemmoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In normal human skin, the cells in the epidermal basal layer were positive for K15 and negative for nestin and CD34. The hair follicle cells below the sebaceous glands were also positive for nestin and K15 and negative for CD34. The outer-root sheath cells under this area could be divided into three parts: an upper part of the outer-root sheath cells that was partially positive for nestin and positive for K15 and negative for CD34; a middle part that was CD34-positive and K15-negative; and a lower part that was positive for K15 and negative for CD34. In the tumor tissues, nestin immunoreactivity was observed in trichilemmoma but not in BCC. Also, immunoreactivity for K15 was strong in BCC and weak in trichilemmoma, and SCC was negative for nestin and partially positive for K15. No CD34 immunoreactivity was observed in any of the cases. These results suggested that trichilemmoma originates in the nestin-positive/K15-positive/CD34-negative outer-root sheath cells below sebaceous glands, BCC tumor cells from the more mature nestin-negative/K15-positive/CD34-negative outer-root sheath cells, and SCC from the nestin-negative/K15-positive/CD34-negative keratinocytes of the basal cell layer in the epidermis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD34 / analysis
  • Antigens, CD34 / biosynthesis*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Epidermis*
  • Hair Follicle*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / analysis
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Keratin-15 / analysis
  • Keratin-15 / biosynthesis*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Nestin
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Keratin-15
  • NES protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nes protein, mouse
  • Nestin