Changing patterns of gap junctional intercellular communication and connexin distribution in mouse epidermis and hair follicles during embryonic development

Dev Dyn. 1997 Dec;210(4):417-30. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0177(199712)210:4<417::AID-AJA6>3.0.CO;2-J.


In the mouse embryo between embryonic days 12 (E12) and 16, regular arrays of epidermal placodes on the mystacial pad develop into whisker follicles. This system was chosen for analysis of gap junctional intercellular communication during differentiation. The patterns of communication were studied by microinjection of the tracers Lucifer yellow-CH (LY-CH) and neurobiotin (NB), while immunofluorescent staining was used to study distribution of connexins 26 and 43. Extensive communication was seen between keratinocytes in developing hair pegs or, in later-stage hair follicles, in the germinative matrix. Coupling between adjacent hair pegs via interfollicular epidermis was not observed. Coupling also became restricted as follicular cells differentiated to form outer root sheath, inner root sheath, and hair shaft. Extensive gap junctional coupling is characteristic of keratinocytes that are rapidly proliferating (as in hair pegs and germinative matrix). Follicular keratinocytes commence differentiation shortly before restriction of gap junctional coupling becomes evident. Dermal mesenchymal cells undergoing different modes of differentiation also exhibit differences in gap junctional coupling, as evidenced by poor transfer of LY-CH between cells in dermal condensations of hair follicles compared with extensive transfer elsewhere in the dermis. LY-CH and NB were not transferred between epidermal or follicular epithelium and mesenchyme, arguing against a direct role for gap junctions permeable to known second messenger molecules or nucleotides in epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in this system. The distribution of connexins 26 and 43 in epidermis and hair follicles changed during differentiation but there was no correlation with changing patterns of dye transfer, indicating an unexpected degree of complexity in the relationship between gap junctional intercellular communication and connexin protein distribution during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Connexin 26
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Epidermis / embryology*
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Hair Follicle / embryology*
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism
  • Intercellular Junctions / metabolism*
  • Isoquinolines / metabolism
  • Mesoderm
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microinjections


  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • neurobiotin
  • Connexin 26
  • Biotin
  • lucifer yellow