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J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Nov;123(5):817-22.

Desmogleins 1 and 3 in the companion layer anchor mouse anagen hair to the follicle.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Anchorage of the hair to its follicle is of paramount importance for survival of rodents in the wild, and is aberrant in some human alopecias. Little is understood about the mechanisms responsible for hair shaft anchorage. Desmoglein (Dsg)3-/- (knockout) mice lose hair during telogen, but their anagen hairs remain anchored to the follicle. We hypothesized that Dsg1 compensates for the loss of Dsg3 in the anagen hair follicles of these Dsg3-/- mice. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found Dsg1 and Dsg3 expression overlapping in the companion layer. To functionally address this hypothesis, we used exfoliative toxin A (ETA) to inactivate Dsg1 in Dsg3-/- mice. Four hours after injection of ETA, Dsg3-/- mice, but not Dsg3+/+ or Dsg3+/- mice, showed striking loss of anagen hair, which was confirmed and quantitated by gentle tape stripping. Histology of the skin of these mice as well as of the tape-stripped hair showed separation between the outer root sheath and inner root sheath of the hair follicle, at the plane of the companion layer. Immunostaining for trichohyalin and K6, which highlights the companion layer, in skin and stripped hair confirmed the plane of separation. Labeling of proliferating cells with bromodeoxyuridine demonstrated that the matrix keratinocytes responsible for producing the hair shaft were below the split and remained in the follicle after loss of the anagen hair. These findings demonstrate the importance of the companion layer, and particularly the Dsg1 and Dsg3 in this layer, in anchoring the anagen hair to the follicle.

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