Hair follicles are complex organs of the skin, in morphological and ontogenic continuity with the epidermis. We have examined the location of desmosomal cadherins and desmosomal plaque proteins in the hair follicle of adult and fetal human scalp skin by immunohistochemistry and have established a localization "map" of the hair follicle. Using antibodies against the plaque proteins desmoplakin I and II, plakoglobin, and plakophilin 1, we have found that these occur in most, if not all hair follicle desmosomes, whereas plakophilin 2 was absent, except in the basal cells of the outer root sheath, where a weak reactivity was found. By contrast, the desmosomal cadherins were mostly differentially synthesized, displaying a complicated map. While desmocollin Dsc3 was detected in all cell types examined, Dsc1 was detected only in the outer root sheath companion cell layer and the inner root sheath, and Dsc2 showed practically a mutually exclusive presence. Desmoglein Dsg2 was observed in basal cells of the outer root sheath as well as in the central cell layers of the subinfundibular outer rood sheath, matrix cells and trichocytes, in partial overlap with the otherwise different immunopositive reactions of Dsg1 and Dsg3. We have also determined when these proteins are synthesized during fetal hair follicle development. The differential molecular composition of desmosomes is discussed in relation to possible functional differences between the individual cell types.