Hair cycle-dependent plasticity of skin and hair follicle innervation in normal murine skin

J Comp Neurol. 1997 Sep 29;386(3):379-95. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19970929)386:3<379::aid-cne4>;2-z.


The innervation of normal, mature mammalian skin is widely thought to be constant. However, the extensive skin remodeling accompanying the transformation of hair follicles from resting stage through growth and regression back to resting (telogen-anagen-catagen-telogen) may also be associated with alteration of skin innervation. We, therefore, have investigated the innervation of the back skin of adolescent C57BL/6 mice at various stages of the depilation-induced hair cycle. By using antisera against neuronal (protein gene product 9.5 [PGP 9.5], neurofilament 150) and Schwann cell (S-100, myelin basic protein) markers, as well as against neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43), we found a dramatic increase of single fibers within the dermis and subcutis during early anagen. This was paralleled by an increase in the number of anastomoses between the cutaneous nerve plexuses and by distinct changes in the nerve fiber supply of anagen vs. telogen hair follicles. The follicular isthmus, including the bulge, the seat of epithelial follicle stem cells, was found to be the most densely innervated skin area. Here, a defined subpopulation of nerve fibers increased in number during anagen and declined during catagen, accompanied by dynamic alterations in the expression of NCAM and GAP-43. Thus, our study provides evidence for a surprising degree of plasticity of murine skin innervation. Because hair cycle-associated tissue remodeling evidently is associated with tightly regulated sprouting and regression of nerve fibers, hair cycle-dependent alterations in murine skin and hair follicle innervation offer an intriguing model for studying the controlled rearrangement of neuronal networks in peripheral tissues under physiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hair / physiology*
  • Hair Follicle / innervation*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myelin Basic Protein / analysis
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / ultrastructure
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / analysis
  • Neurofilament Proteins / analysis
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Periodicity*
  • S100 Proteins / analysis
  • Schwann Cells / cytology
  • Schwann Cells / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Thiolester Hydrolases / analysis
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase


  • Myelin Basic Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • S100 Proteins
  • neurofilament protein 150
  • Thiolester Hydrolases
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase