Hedgehog signaling maintains hair follicle stem cell phenotype in young and aged human skin

Aging Cell. 2009 Dec;8(6):738-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2009.00526.x.


Skin hair follicles (HF) contain bulge stem cells (SC) that regenerate HFs during hair cycles, and repair skin epithelia following injury. As natural aging is associated with decreased skin repair capacity in humans, we have investigated the impact of age on human scalp HF bulge cell number and function. Here, we isolated human bulge cells, characterized as CD200+/KRT15+/KRT19+ cells of the HF, by dissection-combined CD200 selection in young and aged human skin. Targeted transcriptional profiling indicates that KRT15, KRT19, Dkk3, Dkk4, Tcf3, S100A4, Gas1, EGFR and CTGF/CCN2 are also preferentially expressed by human bulge cells, compared to differentiated HF keratinocytes (KC). Our results demonstrate that aging does not alter expression or localization of these HF SC markers. In addition, we could not detect significant differences in HF density or bulge cell number between young and aged human scalp skin. Interestingly, hedgehog (Hh) signaling is activated in human bulge cells in vivo, and down-regulated in differentiated HF KCs, both in young and aged skin. In addition, activation of Hh signaling by lentivirus-mediated overexpression of transcription factor Gli1 induces transcription of HF SC markers KRT15, KRT19, and Gas1, in cultured KCs. Together with previously reported knock-out mouse results, these data suggest a role for Hh signaling in maintaining bulge cell phenotype in young and aged human skin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Separation
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Hair Follicle / cytology*
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Keratin-15 / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • GAS1 protein, human
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • KRT15 protein, human
  • Keratin-15
  • Membrane Proteins
  • antigens, CD200