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Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2006;22:339-73.

Epidermal stem cells of the skin.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The skin constantly renews itself throughout adult life, and the hair follicle undergoes a perpetual cycle of growth and degeneration. Stem cells (SCs) residing in the epidermis and hair follicle ensure the maintenance of adult skin homeostasis and hair regeneration, but they also participate in the repair of the epidermis after injuries. We summarize here the current knowledge of epidermal SCs of the adult skin. We discuss their fundamental characteristics, the methods recently designed to isolate these cells, the genes preferentially expressed in the multipotent SC niche, and the signaling pathways involved in SC niche formation, SC maintenance, and activation. Finally, we speculate on how the deregulation of these pathways may lead to cancer formation.

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