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J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Jan;133(1):31-41. doi: 10.1038/jid.2012.230. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Epithelial Wnt ligand secretion is required for adult hair follicle growth and regeneration.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA.


β-Catenin, a key transducer molecule of Wnt signaling, is required for adult hair follicle growth and regeneration. However, the cellular source of Wnt ligands required for Wnt/β-catenin activation during anagen induction is unknown. In this study, we genetically deleted Wntless (Wls), a gene required for Wnt ligand secretion by Wnt-producing cells, specifically in the hair follicle epithelium during telogen phase. We show that epithelial Wnt ligands are required for anagen, as loss of Wls in the follicular epithelium resulted in a profound hair cycle arrest. Both the follicular epithelium and dermal papilla showed markedly decreased Wnt/β-catenin signaling during anagen induction compared with control hair follicles. Surprisingly, hair follicle stem cells that are responsible for hair regeneration maintained expression of stem cell markers but exhibited significantly reduced proliferation. Finally, we demonstrate that epidermal Wnt ligands are critical for adult wound-induced de novo hair formation. Collectively, these data show that Wnt ligands secreted by the hair follicle epithelium are required for adult hair follicle regeneration and provide new insight into potential cellular targets for the treatment of hair disorders such as alopecia.

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