Defining the unique molecular features of progenitors and their niche requires a genome-wide, whole-tissue approach with cellular resolution. Here, we co-isolate embryonic hair follicle (HF) placode and dermal condensate cells, precursors of adult HF stem cells and the dermal papilla/sheath niche, along with lineage-related keratinocytes and fibroblasts, Schwann cells, melanocytes, and a population inclusive of all remaining skin cells. With next-generation RNA sequencing, we define gene expression patterns in the context of the entire embryonic skin, and through transcriptome cross-comparisons, we uncover hundreds of enriched genes in cell-type-specific signatures. Axon guidance signaling and many other pathway genes are enriched in multiple signatures, implicating these factors in driving the large-scale cellular rearrangements necessary for HF formation. Finally, we share all data in an interactive, searchable companion website. Our study provides an overarching view of signaling within the entire embryonic skin and captures a molecular snapshot of HF progenitors and their niche.
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