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Cell Stem Cell. 2013 Dec 5;13(6):720-33. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2013.10.003.

Distinct functions for Wnt/β-catenin in hair follicle stem cell proliferation and survival and interfollicular epidermal homeostasis.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Wnt/β-catenin signaling is a central regulator of adult stem cells. Variable sensitivity of Wnt reporter transgenes, β-catenin's dual roles in adhesion and signaling, and hair follicle degradation and inflammation resulting from broad deletion of epithelial β-catenin have precluded clear understanding of Wnt/β-catenin's functions in adult skin stem cells. By inducibly deleting β-catenin globally in skin epithelia, only in hair follicle stem cells, or only in interfollicular epidermis and comparing the phenotypes with those caused by ectopic expression of the Wnt/β-catenin inhibitor Dkk1, we show that this pathway is necessary for hair follicle stem cell proliferation. However, β-catenin is not required within hair follicle stem cells for their maintenance, and follicles resume proliferating after ectopic Dkk1 has been removed, indicating persistence of functional progenitors. We further unexpectedly discovered a broader role for Wnt/β-catenin signaling in contributing to progenitor cell proliferation in nonhairy epithelia and interfollicular epidermis under homeostatic, but not inflammatory, conditions.

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