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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 29, 1996; 93(22): 12525–12530.

An estrogen receptor pathway regulates the telogen-anagen hair follicle transition and influences epidermal cell proliferation.


The hair follicle is a cyclic, self renewing epidermal structure which is thought to be controlled by signals from the dermal papilla, a specialized cluster of mesenchymal cells within the dermis. Topical treatments with 17-beta-estradiol to the clipped dorsal skin of mice arrested hair follicles in telogen and produced a profound and prolonged inhibition of hair growth while treatment with the biologically inactive stereoisomer, 17-alpha-estradiol, did not inhibit hair growth. Topical treatments with ICI 182,780, a pure estrogen receptor antagonist, caused the hair follicles to exit telogen and enter anagen, thereby initiating hair growth. Immunohistochemical staining for the estrogen receptor in skin revealed intense and specific staining of the nuclei of the cells of the dermal papilla. The expression of the estrogen receptor in the dermal papilla was hair cycle-dependent with the highest levels of expression associated with the telogen follicle. 17-beta-Estradiol-treated epidermis demonstrated a similar number of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdUrd) S-phase cells as the control epidermis above telogen follicles; however, the number of BrdUrd S-phase basal cells in the control epidermis varied according to the phase of the cycle of the underlying hair follicles and ranged from 2.6% above telogen follicles to 7.0% above early anagen follicles. These findings indicate an estrogen receptor pathway within the dermal papilla regulates the telogen-anagen follicle transition and suggest that diffusible factors associated with the anagen follicle influence cell proliferation in the epidermis.

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