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Lab Invest. 2009 Aug;89(8):844-56. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2009.48. Epub 2009 Jun 8.

Differential expression of stem-cell-associated markers in human hair follicle epithelial cells.

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  • 1Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


Several putative biomarkers have been suggested for identifying murine follicular stem cells; however, human hair follicles have a different pattern of biomarker expression, and follicular stem cell isolation methods have not been established. To isolate a stem cell population applicable to clinical settings, we conducted a comprehensive survey of the expression of stem-cell-associated (K15, CD200, CD34, and CD271) and other biomarkers (K1, K14, CD29, and CD49f) in immunohistological sections of the human epidermis and follicular outer root sheath (ORS). We also examined freshly isolated and cultured epidermal or follicular cells with single- and multicolor flow cytometry or immunocytochemistry. After sorting cells by CD200, CD34, and forward scatter (FSC) values (cell size), colony-forming assays were performed. We found that biomarkers were differentially expressed in the epidermis and ORS. Basal bulge cells were mainly K15+CD200+CD34(-)CD271(-), and suprabasal cells were K15(-)CD200+CD34(-)CD271(-). We categorized follicular cells into nine subpopulations according to biomarker expression profiles. The CD200+CD34(-) bulge cells had much higher colony-forming abilities than the CD34+ population, and were divided into two subpopulations: a CD200+CD34(-)FSC(high) (K15-rich, basal) and a CD200+CD34(-)FSC(low) (K15-poor, suprabasal) population. The former formed fewer but larger-sized colonies than the latter. Follicular epithelial cell cultivation resulted in loss of K15, CD200, CD34, and CD271 expression, but maintenance of K14, CD29, and CD49f expression. We found that the bulge contained two populations with different localizations, cell sizes, and colony-forming abilities. We showed that K15, CD200, CD34, and CD271 were useful biomarkers for characterizing freshly isolated human follicular epithelial cells in diverse stages of differentiation.

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