Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jun 13;103(24):9075-80. Epub 2006 Jun 12.
Generation of the primary hair follicle pattern.
Mou C, Jackson B, Schneider P, Overbeek PA, Headon DJ.
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, United Kingdom.
Hair follicles are spaced apart from one another at regular intervals through the skin. Although follicles are predominantly epidermal structures, classical tissue recombination experiments indicated that the underlying dermis defines their location during development. Although many molecules involved in hair follicle formation have been identified, the molecular interactions that determine the emergent property of pattern formation have remained elusive. We have used embryonic skin cultures to dissect signaling responses and patterning outcomes as the skin spatially organizes itself. We find that ectodysplasin receptor (Edar)-bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling and transcriptional interactions are central to generation of the primary hair follicle pattern, with restriction of responsiveness, rather than localization of an inducing ligand, being the key driver in this process. The crux of this patterning mechanism is rapid Edar-positive feedback in the epidermis coupled with induction of dermal BMP4/7. The BMPs in turn repress epidermal Edar and hence follicle fate. Edar activation also induces connective tissue growth factor, an inhibitor of BMP signaling, allowing BMP action only at a distance from their site of synthesis. Consistent with this model, transgenic hyperactivation of Edar signaling leads to widespread overproduction of hair follicles. This Edar-BMP activation-inhibition mechanism appears to operate alongside a labile prepattern, suggesting that Edar-mediated stabilization of beta-catenin active foci is a key event in determining definitive follicle locations.