Adult interfollicular tumour-initiating cells are reprogrammed into an embryonic hair follicle progenitor-like fate during basal cell carcinoma initiation

Nat Cell Biol. 2012 Dec;14(12):1282-94. doi: 10.1038/ncb2628. Epub 2012 Nov 25.


Basal cell carcinoma, the most frequent human skin cancer, arises from activating hedgehog (HH) pathway mutations; however, little is known about the temporal changes that occur in tumour-initiating cells from the first oncogenic hit to the development of invasive cancer. Using an inducible mouse model enabling the expression of a constitutively active Smoothened mutant (SmoM2) in the adult epidermis, we carried out transcriptional profiling of SmoM2-expressing cells at different times during cancer initiation. We found that tumour-initiating cells are massively reprogrammed into a fate resembling that of embryonic hair follicle progenitors (EHFPs). Wnt/ β-catenin signalling was very rapidly activated following SmoM2 expression in adult epidermis and coincided with the expression of EHFP markers. Deletion of β-catenin in adult SmoM2-expressing cells prevents EHFP reprogramming and tumour initiation. Finally, human basal cell carcinomas also express genes of the Wnt signalling and EHFP signatures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hair Follicle / cytology*
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • beta Catenin

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE40612