The hair follicle-psoriasis axis: Shared regulatory mechanisms and therapeutic targets

Takahiro Suzuki, Taisuke Ito, Amos Gilhar, Yoshiki Tokura, Kristian Reich, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


It has long been known that there is a special affinity of psoriasis for the scalp: Here, it occurs most frequently, lesions terminate sharply in frontal skin beyond the hair line and are difficult to treat. Yet, surprisingly, scalp psoriasis only rarely causes alopecia, even though the pilosebaceous unit clearly is affected. Here, we systematically explore the peculiar, insufficiently investigated connection between psoriasis and growing (anagen) terminal scalp hair follicles (HFs), with emphasis on shared regulatory mechanism and therapeutic targets. Interestingly, several drugs and stressors that can trigger/aggravate psoriasis can inhibit hair growth (e.g. beta-blockers, chloroquine, carbamazepine, interferon-alpha, perceived stress). Instead, several anti-psoriatic agents can stimulate hair growth (e.g. cyclosporine, glucocorticoids, dithranol, UV irradiation), while skin/HF trauma (Köbner phenomenon/depilation) favours the development of psoriatic lesions and induces anagen in “quiescent” (telogen) HFs. On this basis, we propose two interconnected working models: (a) the existence of a bidirectional “hair follicle-psoriasis axis,” along which keratinocytes of anagen scalp HFs secrete signals that favour the development and maintenance of psoriatic scalp lesions and respond to signals from these lesions, and (b) that anagen induction and psoriatic lesions share molecular “switch-on” mechanisms, which invite pharmacological targeting, once identified. Therefore, we advocate a novel, cross-fertilizing and integrative approach to psoriasis and hair research that systematically characterizes the “HF-psoriasis axis,” focused on identification and therapeutic targeting of selected, shared signalling pathways in the future management of both, psoriasis and hair growth disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalExperimental dermatology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Köbner phenomenon
  • anagen
  • hair follicle
  • neurogenic inflammation
  • psoriasis
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology


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