Thyroid hormones directly alter human hair follicle functions: anagen prolongation and stimulation of both hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation and hair pigmentation

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Nov;93(11):4381-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-0283. Epub 2008 Aug 26.


Context: Both insufficient and excess levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) can result in altered hair/skin structure and function (e.g. effluvium). However, it is still unclear whether T3 and T4 exert any direct effects on human hair follicles (HFs), and if so, how exactly human HFs respond to T3/T4 stimulation.

Objective: Our objective was to asses the impact of T3/T4 on human HF in vitro.

Methods: Human anagen HFs were isolated from skin obtained from females undergoing facelift surgery. HFs from euthyroid females between 40 and 69 yr (average, 56 yr) were cultured and treated with T3/T4.

Results: Studying microdissected, organ-cultured normal human scalp HFs, we show here that T4 up-regulates the proliferation of hair matrix keratinocytes, whereas their apoptosis is down-regulated by T3 and T4. T4 also prolongs the duration of the hair growth phase (anagen) in vitro, possibly due to the down-regulation of TGF-beta2, the key anagen-inhibitory growth factor. Because we show here that human HFs transcribe deiodinase genes (D2 and D3), they may be capable of converting T4 to T3. Intrafollicular immunoreactivity for the recognized thyroid hormone-responsive keratins cytokeratin (CK) 6 and CK14 is significantly modulated by T3 and T4 (CK6 is enhanced, CK14 down-regulated). Both T3 and T4 also significantly stimulate intrafollicular melanin synthesis.

Conclusions: Thus, we present the first evidence that human HFs are direct targets of thyroid hormones and demonstrate that T3 and/or T4 modulate multiple hair biology parameters, ranging from HF cycling to pigmentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hair Color / drug effects*
  • Hair Follicle / cytology
  • Hair Follicle / drug effects
  • Hair Follicle / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Thyroxine / pharmacology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2 / metabolism
  • Triiodothyronine / pharmacology*


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyroxine