Keratinocyte apoptosis is a central element in the regulation of hair follicle regression (catagen), yet the exact location and the control of follicular keratinocyte apoptosis remain obscure. To generate an "apoptomap" of the hair follicle, we have studied selected apoptosis-associated parameters in the C57BL/6 mouse model for hair research during normal and pharmacologically manipulated, pathological catagen development. As assessed by terminal deoxynucleotide transferase dUTP fluorescein nick end-labeling (TUNEL) stain, apoptotic cells not only appeared in the regressing proximal follicle epithelium but, surprisingly, were also seen in the central inner root sheath, in the bulge/isthmus region, and in the secondary germ, but never in the dermal papilla. These apoptosis hot spots during catagen development correlated largely with a down-regulation of the Bcl-2/Bax ratio but only poorly with the expression patterns of interleukin-1beta converting enzyme, p55TNFR, and Fas/Apo-1 immunoreactivity. Instead, a higher correlation was found with p75NTR expression. During cyclophosphamide-induced follicle dystrophy and alopecia, massive keratinocyte apoptosis occurred in the entire proximal hair bulb, except in the dermal papilla, despite a strong up-regulation of Bax and p75NTR immunoreactivity. Selected receptors of the tumor necrosis factor/nerve growth factor family and members of the Bcl-2 family may also play a key role in the control of follicular keratinocyte apoptosis in situ.