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J Invest Dermatol. 2004 May;122(5):1078-83.

On the regulation of hair keratin expression: lessons from studies in pilomatricomas.

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Clinique Dermatologique, Hôpital Civil, Strasbourg, France.


Human hair follicles exhibit a complex pattern of sequential hair keratin expression in the hair matrix, cuticle, and cortex. In pilomatricomas, that is, benign skin tumors thought to arise from germinative matrix cells of the hair follicle and retaining morphological signs of cortical differentiation, this differential hair keratin pattern has been shown to be faithfully preserved in the lower and upper transitional cell compartments of the tumors. Here we show that also the co-expression of hair keratin hHa5 with its regulatory nuclear homeoprotein HOXC13 in matrix cells of the hair follicle is maintained in lower transitional cells of pilomatricomas. In contrast, the nuclear co-expression of LEF1 and beta-catenin, which in the hair follicle has been postulated to initiate cortex cell differentiation through the induction of hair keratin hHa1 expression (Merill et al, Genes Dev 15:1688-1705, 2001), is not preserved in upper transitional cells of pilomatricomas. Although these cells correctly express hHa1, they are completely devoid of LEF1 and nuclear LEF1/beta-catenin co-expression is shifted to a subpopulation of hair keratin-free basaloid cells of the tumors. These data imply that unlike the normal hair follicle, cortical differentiation in pilomatricomas is not under the control of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway.

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