Control of human hair growth by neurotrophins: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor inhibits hair shaft elongation, induces catagen, and stimulates follicular transforming growth factor β2 expression

Eva M.J. Peters, Marit G. Hansen, Rupert W. Overall, Motonobu Nakamura, Paolo Pertile, Burghard F. Klapp, Petra C. Arck, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations


Neurotrophins are important modulators of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. Previously, we had shown that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its high-affinity receptor tyrosine kinase B (TrkB) are prominently involved in the control of murine hair follicle cycling. We now show that BDNF and TrkB are also expressed in the human hair follicle in a manner that is both hair cycle dependent and suggestive of epithelial-mesenchymal cross-talk between BDNF-secreting dermal papilla fibroblasts of anagen hair follicles and subpopulations of TrkB + hair follicle keratinocytes. As functional evidence for an involvement of BDNF/TrkB in human hair growth control, we show in organ-cultured human anagen hair follicles that 50 ng per mL BDNF significantly inhibit hair shaft elongation, induce premature catagen development, and inhibit keratinocyte proliferation. Quantitative real-time rtPCR analysis demonstrates upregulation of the potent catagen inducer, transforming growth factor β2 (TGFβ2) by BDNF, whereas catagen induction by BDNF was partially reversible through co-administration of TGFβ-neutralizing antibody. This suggests that TrkB-mediated signaling promotes the switch between anagen and catagen at least in part via upregulation of TGFβ2. Thus, human scalp hair follicles are both a source and target of bioregulation by BDNF, which invites to target TrkB-mediated signaling for therapeutic hair growth modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-685
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Hair cycle
  • Human
  • Neurotrophin
  • Tumor growth factor β2
  • Tyrosinekinase B

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology

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