Identifying the niche controlling melanocyte differentiation

Genes Dev. 2017 Apr 15;31(8):721-723. doi: 10.1101/gad.300665.117.


Melanocytes present in hair follicles are responsible for their pigmentation. Melanocyte differentiation and hair pigmentation depend on the stem cell factor (SCF)/c-Kit signaling pathway, but the niche that regulates melanocyte differentiation is not well characterized. In this issue of Genes & Development, Liao and colleagues (pp. 744-756) identify Krox20+-derived cells of the hair shaft as the niche and the essential source of SCF required for melanocyte maturation. This study delineates the niche factors regulating melanocyte differentiation and hair pigmentation and opens up new avenues to further characterize the cross-talk between the hair follicle and melanocytes that controls melanocyte maintenance and differentiation.

Keywords: KROX20; hair follicle stem cell; hair matrix; hair pigmentation; hair shaft progenitor cell; stem cell factor (SCF).

Publication types

  • Review
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Hair Follicle / cytology*
  • Melanocytes / cytology*
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Pigmentation / genetics
  • Pigmentation / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cell Factor / genetics
  • Stem Cell Factor / metabolism


  • Stem Cell Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit