Plasticity and cytokinetic dynamics of the hair follicle mesenchyme: Implications for hair growth control

Desmond J. Tobin, Andrei Gunin, Markus Magerl, Bori Handijski, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


The continuously remodeled hair follicle is a uniquely exploitable epithelial-mesenchymal interaction system. In contrast to the cyclical fate of the hair follicle epithelium, the dynamics of the supposedly stable hair follicle mesenchyme remains enigmatic. Here we address this issue using the C57BL/6 hair research model. During hair growth, increase in total follicular papilla size was associated with doubling of papilla cell numbers, much of which occurred before intra-follicular papilla cell proliferation, and subsequent to mitosis in the proximal connective tissue sheath. This indicates that some papilla cells originate in, and migrate from, the proliferating pool of connective tissue sheath fibroblasts. Follicular papilla cell number and total papilla size were maximal by anagen VI, but intriguingly, decreased by 25% during this period of sustained hair production. This cell loss, which continued during catagen, was not associated with intra-follicular papilla apoptosis, strongly indicating that fibroblasts migrate out of the late anagen/early catagen papilla and re-enter the proximal connective tissue sheath. Low-level apoptosis occurred only here, along with the "detachment" of cells from the regressing connective tissue sheath. Thus, the hair follicle mesenchyme exhibits significant hair cycle-associated plasticity. Modulation of these cell interchanges is likely to be important during clinically important hair follicle transformations, e.g. vellus-to-terminal and terminal-to-vellus during androgenetic alopecia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-904
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Connective tissue sheath
  • Dermal papilla
  • Electron microscopy
  • Follicular-papilla
  • Histomorphometry, proliferation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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