Reduction of intrafollicular apoptosis in chemotherapy-induced alopecia by topical calcitriol-analogs

M. B. Schilli, R. Paus, A. Menrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Chemotherapy-induced alopecia is thought to result from cytotoxic and apoptosis-related damage to the hair follicle. This study was designed to confirm whether keratinocyte apoptosis is indeed induced in growing (= anagen) hair follicles of C57 BL/6 mice after the injection of cyclophosphamide, using improved methods for histologic detection of apoptotic cells in murine skin. More importantly, we asked whether topical calcitriol-analogs are able to modulate cyclophosphamide-induced apoptosis in vivo, because there are conflicting reports on the effects of calcitriols on apoptosis in vitro. Anagen was induced in telogen mice on day 0 by depilation. Starting on day 5 post-depilation, the back skin of mice was topically treated with either 0.2 μg 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, 2.0 μg calcipotriol, 0.02 μg KH 1060, or vehicle (ethanol) only. On the last day of treatment (i.e., day 9 post-depilation), all mice received 150 mg cyclophosphamide i.p. per kg as a single dose to induce alopecia, or vehicle (aqua dist.). Analysis of the treated skin by in situ-end labeling (using a modified terminal UTP nucleotide end labeling technique suitable for murine skin), by Hoechst 33342 stain, and by DNA electrophoresis on days 10 and 14, revealed the induction of massive apoptosis in cyclophosphamide-treated anagen hair bulbs, which was most prominent on day 10, whereas controls showed no follicular apoptosis. The calcitriol-pretreated groups demonstrated a significant reduction of apoptosis, with a maximal inhibition seen on day 14. This confirms that cyclophosphamide indeed induces massive keratinocyte apoptosis in anagen hair follicles, and provides evidence that topical calcitriol-analogs can suppress epithelial cell apoptosis in vivo. The mouse model employed here offers an excellent tool for dissecting the as yet poorly understood controls of keratinocyte apoptosis in situ and its pharmacologic manipulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-604
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcitriols
  • Hair follicle
  • Keratinocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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