Glutamate transporter Slc1a3 mediates inter-niche stem cell activation during skin growth

EMBO J. 2018 May 2;37(9):e98280. doi: 10.15252/embj.201798280. Epub 2018 Apr 3.


Tissues contain distinct stem cell niches, but whether cell turnover is coordinated between niches during growth is unknown. Here, we report that in mouse skin, hair growth is accompanied by sebaceous gland and interfollicular epidermis expansion. During hair growth, cells in the bulge and outer root sheath temporarily upregulate the glutamate transporter SLC1A3, and the number of SLC1A3+ basal cells in interfollicular epidermis and sebaceous gland increases. Fate mapping of SLC1A3+ cells in mice revealed transient expression in proliferating stem/progenitor cells in all three niches. Deletion of slc1a3 delays hair follicle anagen entry, uncouples interfollicular epidermis and sebaceous gland expansion from the hair cycle, and leads to reduced fur density in aged mice, indicating a role of SLC1A3 in stem/progenitor cell activation. Modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 activity mimics the effects of SLC1A3 deletion or inhibition. These data reveal that stem/progenitor cell activation is synchronized over distinct niches during growth and identify SLC1A3 as a general marker and effector of activated epithelial stem/progenitor cells throughout the skin.

Keywords: Slc1a3; epithelial stem cells; glutamate signaling; skin; stem cell activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology*
  • Epidermis / growth & development*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter 1 / biosynthesis*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter 1 / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Sebaceous Glands / cytology
  • Sebaceous Glands / growth & development*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter 1
  • Slc1a3 protein, mouse