Evidence for a functional interaction of WNT10A and EBF1 in male-pattern baldness

PLoS One. 2021 Sep 10;16(9):e0256846. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0256846. eCollection 2021.


More than 300 genetic risk loci have been identified for male pattern baldness (MPB) but little is known about the exact molecular mechanisms through which the associated variants exert their effects on MPB pathophysiology. Here, we aimed at further elucidating the regulatory architecture of the MPB risk locus on chromosome (chr.) 2q35, where we have previously reported a regulatory effect of the MPB lead variant on the expression of WNT10A. A HaploReg database research for regulatory annotations revealed that the association signal at 2q35 maps to a binding site for the transcription factor EBF1, whose gene is located at a second MPB risk locus on chr. 5q33.3. To investigate a potential interaction between EBF1 and WNT10A during MPB development, we performed in vitro luciferase reporter assays as well as expression analyses and immunofluorescence co-stainings in microdissected human hair follicles. Our experiments confirm that EBF1 activates the WNT10A promoter and that the WNT10A/EBF1 interaction is impacted by the allelic expression of the MPB risk allele at 2q35. Expression analyses across different hair cycle phases and immunhistochemical (co)stainings against WNT10A and EBF1 suggest a predominant relevance of EBF1/WNT10A interaction for hair shaft formation during anagen. Based on these findings we suggest a functional mechanism at the 2q35 risk locus for MPB, where an MPB-risk allele associated reduction in WNT10A promoter activation via EBF1 results in a decrease in WNT10A expression that eventually results in anagen shortening, that is frequently observed in MPB affected hair follicles. To our knowledge, this study is the first follow-up study on MPB that proves functional interaction between two MPB risk loci and sheds light on the underlying pathophysiological mechanism at these loci.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / genetics*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics*


  • EBF1 protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • WNT10A protein, human
  • Wnt Proteins

Grants and funding

Monasterium Laboratory, Skin & Hair Research Solutions GmbH provided support in form of salaries for authors (M.B., D.B., N.V.B.) but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.