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Dev Biol. 2000 Sep 15;225(2):424-36.

MGF (KIT ligand) is a chemokinetic factor for melanoblast migration into hair follicles.

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MRC Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, United Kingdom.


Melanoblasts, the precursors of the pigment-producing cells of the skin and hair, are derived from the neural crest and migrate to the skin around 12 days of gestation in the mouse. In adult mice almost all the melanoblasts are confined to the hair follicles except for the epidermal layers of nonhairy skin. The receptor tyrosine kinase, KIT, is necessary for the survival, proliferation, and migration of melanoblasts. We have utilised an organ culture for embryonic skin taken from Dct-lacZ transgenic mice. The early patterning of the follicles and developing skin layers is retained within the cultures and the lacZ reporter allows visualisation of the melanoblasts within their native tissue environment. Soon after initiation of hair follicle development, melanoblasts localise in the follicles. Inhibition of follicle formation demonstrates that this localisation is an active process; in the absence of follicles, the melanoblasts proliferate but remain associated with the basement membrane. Implantation of beads releasing MGF, the ligand of KIT, does not result in melanoblast migration towards the bead, rather their localisation to the follicles is accelerated. Addition of soluble MGF induces the same effect; KIT therefore promotes melanocyte movement and acts as a chemokinetic, or motogenic, receptor. The melanoblasts must be guided to their correct location by other chemotactic signals or move at random and locate by ceasing movement when the follicle is engaged.

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