Adiponectin negatively regulates pigmentation, Wnt/β-catenin and HGF/c-Met signalling within human scalp hair follicles ex vivo

Arch Dermatol Res. 2023 Apr;315(3):603-612. doi: 10.1007/s00403-021-02291-2. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


Adiponectin reportedly stimulates proliferation and elongation of human scalp hair follicles (HFs) ex vivo. In the current study, we investigated how adiponectin oligomers produced by perifollicular dermal white adipose tissue (dWAT), a potent source of adiponectin isoforms, influence human HF proliferation and pigmentation. To do so, we treated microdissected, organ-cultured HFs in the presence or absence of dWAT with a recombinant human adiponectin oligomer mix, or inhibited dWAT-derived adiponectin using a neutralizing antibody. Multiplex qPCR (Fluidigm) revealed that adiponectin oligomers downregulated pigmentation genes KITLG, PMEL and TYRP1 and Wnt genes AXIN2, LEF1 and WNT10B. In situ hybridization showed that adiponectin downregulated AXIN2 and LEF1, and up-regulated DKK1 within the dermal papilla (DP), a highly unusual transcriptional profile for a putative hair growth-promoting agent. Adiponectin oligomers also downregulated protein expression of the HGF receptor c-Met within the matrix and DP. However, adiponectin did not alter hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation within 48 h ex vivo, irrespective of the presence/absence of dWAT; HF pigmentation (Masson-Fontana histochemistry, tyrosinase activity) was also unchanged. In contrast, neutralizing adiponectin isoforms within HF + dWAT increased proliferation, melanin content and tyrosinase activity but resulted in fewer melanocytes and melanocytic dendrites, as assessed by gp100 immunostaining. These seemingly contradictory effects suggest that adiponectin exerts complex effects upon human HF biology, likely in parallel with the pro-pigmentation effects of dWAT- and DP-derived HGF. Our data suggest that dWAT-derived ratios of adiponectin isoforms and the cleaved, globular version of adiponectin may in fact determine how adiponectin impacts upon follicular pigmentation and growth.

Keywords: AdipoQ; Dermal adipocyte; GBP-28; acrp30; apM1.

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / metabolism
  • Hair Follicle*
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Pigmentation
  • Scalp*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Adiponectin
  • beta Catenin
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor
  • HGF protein, human
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase
  • Wnt Proteins