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Development. 2003 Nov;130(21):5241-55. Epub 2003 Sep 3.

Manipulation of stem cell proliferation and lineage commitment: visualisation of label-retaining cells in wholemounts of mouse epidermis.

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Keratinocyte Laboratory, Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, 44 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PX, UK.


Mammalian epidermis is maintained by stem cells that have the ability to self-renew and generate daughter cells that differentiate along the lineages of the hair follicles, interfollicular epidermis and sebaceous gland. As stem cells divide infrequently in adult mouse epidermis, they can be visualised as DNA label-retaining cells (LRC). With whole-mount labelling, we can examine large areas of interfollicular epidermis and many hair follicles simultaneously, enabling us to evaluate stem cell markers and examine the effects of different stimuli on the LRC population. LRC are not confined to the hair follicle, but also lie in sebaceous glands and interfollicular epidermis. LRC reside throughout the permanent region of the hair follicle, where they express keratin 15 and lie in a region of high alpha6beta4 integrin expression. LRC are not significantly depleted by successive hair growth cycles. They can, nevertheless, be stimulated to divide by treatment with phorbol ester, resulting in near complete loss of LRC within 12 days. Activation of Myc stimulates epidermal proliferation without depleting LRC and induces differentiation of sebocytes within the interfollicular epidermis. Expression of N-terminally truncated Lef1 to block beta-catenin signalling induces transdifferentiation of hair follicles into interfollicular epidermis and sebocytes and causes loss of LRC primarily through proliferation. We conclude that LRC are more sensitive to some proliferative stimuli than others and that changes in lineage can occur with or without recruitment of LRC into cycle.

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