Epigenetic regulation and signalling pathways in Merkel cell development

Exp Dermatol. 2021 Aug;30(8):1051-1064. doi: 10.1111/exd.14415. Epub 2021 Jun 29.


Merkel cells are specialized epithelial cells connected to afferent nerve endings responsible for light-touch sensations, formed at specific locations in touch-sensitive regions of the mammalian skin. Although Merkel cells are descendants of the epidermal lineage, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for the development of these unique mechanosensory cells. Recent studies have highlighted that the Polycomb group (PcG) of proteins play a significant role in spatiotemporal regulation of Merkel cell formation. In addition, several of the major signalling pathways involved in skin development have been shown to regulate Merkel cell development as well. Here, we summarize the current understandings of the role of developmental regulators in Merkel cell formation, including the interplay between the epigenetic machinery and key signalling pathways, and the lineage-specific transcription factors involved in the regulation of Merkel cell development.

Keywords: Merkel cells; PRC1; PRC2; Polycomb complexes; development; histone modifications; lineage transcription factors; signalling pathways; skin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • Merkel Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Transcription Factors