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Melanogenesis is coupled to murine anagen: Toward new concepts for the role of melanocytes and the regulation of melanogenesis in hair growth

  • Andrzej Slominski
    Correspondence
    Reprint requests to: Dr. Andrzej T. Slominski, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, 47 New Scotland Avenue, A-68, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY 12208.
    Affiliations
    Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, U.S.A.
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  • Ralf Paus
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, University Hospital R. Virchow, Freie Universität Berlin, D-1000 Berlin 65, Germany
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      Abstract

      Hair is actively pigmented only when it grows: the melanogenic activity of follicular melanocytes (MC) is strictly coupled to the anagen stage of the hair cycle. In catagen, melanin formation is switched off and is absent throughout telogen. The appearance of pigmentation is preceded, and further accompanied by, a time-frame-restricted, differential pattern of tyrosinase transcription, translation, and enzyme activities during the development of anagen follicles. In this speculative review, we argue that signals required for melanin synthesis and pigment transfer to bulb keratinocytes (KC) are intrinsic to the skin, rather than coming from the serum. First, the proopiomelanocortin (POMC) gene is expressed and translated during anagen, but is below the level of detectability in telogen; POMC is a precursor protein for adrenocorticotropin and melanotropins, which are potent regulators of MC proliferation and differentiation. Second, fibroblasts and KC produce factors that affect MC proliferation and differentiation. We suggest that signals regulating follicular MC activity partially derive from cutaneous cells expressing POMC. Vice versa, MC transfer to surrounding KC pigment granules with potent bioregulatory properties. MC also produce and secrete various signal molecules that can regulate mesenchymal and epithelial cell functions. Anagen-associated melanogenesis and the cyclic production of a pigmented hair shaft result from programmed and tightly coordinated epithelial-mesenchymal-neuroectodermal interactions, in which MC may act not only as pigmentary, but also as hair growth-regulatory cells.

      Abbreviations:

      ET (endothelins), KC (keratinocytes), MC (melanocytes), MSH (melanotropins), POMC (proopiomelanocortins)

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