Migration of melanoblasts into the developing murine hair follicle is accompanied by transient c-Kit expression

Eva M.J. Peters, Desmond J. Tobin, Natasha Botchkareva, Marcus Maurer, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Disruption of the c-Kit/stem cell factor (SCF) signaling pathway interferes with the survival, migration, and differentiation of melanocytes during generation of the hair follicle pigmentary unit. We examined c-Kit, SCF, and S100 (a marker for precursor melanocytic cells) expression, as well as melanoblast/melanocyte ultrastructure, in perinatal C57BL/6 mouse skin. Before the onset of hair bulb melanogenesis (i.e., stages 0-4 of hair follicle morphogenesis), strong c-Kit immunoreactivity (IR) was seen in selected non-melanogenic cells in the developing hair placode and hair plug. Many of these cells were S100-IR and were ultrastructurally identified as melanoblasts with migratory appearance. During the subsequent stages (5 and 6), increasingly dendritic c-Kit-IR cells successively invaded the hair bulb, while S100-IR gradually disappeared from these cells. Towards the completion of hair follicle morphogenesis (stages 7 and 8), several distinct follicular melanocytic cell populations could be defined and consisted broadly of (a) undifferentiated, non-pigmented c-Kit-negative melanoblasts in the outer root sheath and bulge and (b) highly differentiated melanocytes adjacent to the hair follicle dermal papilla above Auber's line. Widespread epithelial SCF-IR was seen throughout hair follicle morphogenesis. These findings suggest that melanoblasts express c-Kit as a prerequisite for migration into the SCF-supplying hair follicle epithelium. In addition, differentiated c-Kit-IR melanocytes target the bulb, while non-c-Kit-IR melanoblasts invade the outer root sheath and bulge in fully developed hair follicles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-766
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • C57BL/6 mouse
  • Hair follicle morphogenesis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Melanoblast
  • Melanocyte
  • S100
  • Stem cell factor
  • Ultrastructure
  • c-Kit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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