Manipulation of outer root sheath cell survival perturbs the hair-growth cycle

John C. Pena, Ameeta Kelekar, Elaine V. Fuchs, Craig B. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Transgenic mice that overexpress the anti-apoptotic gene bcl-x(L) under the control of the keratin 14 promoter have significantly shorter hair than non-transgenic littermates. The deficit in hair length correlated with a decrease in the duration of anagen, the growth phase of the hair cycle. A prolongation in telogen, the resting phase of the hair cycle, was also observed in adult animals. In the developing hair bulb, bcl-x(L) transgene expression was observed exclusively in the outer root sheath (ORS) cells. Bcl-x(L) expression enhanced the survival of ORS cells treated with apoptotic stimuli. The results suggest that preventing the apoptotic death of ORS cells during anagen leads to a more rapid termination of progenitor cell commitment/proliferation, while the increased survival of ORS cells during telogen delays the initiation of a new hair cycle. ORS cells produce fibroblast growth factor-5 (FGF-5), which acts in a paracrine fashion to terminate precursor-cell division during anagen. The short hair phenotype of bcl-x(L) transgenic mice was substantially reversed in FGF-5-deficient mice. Thus, the production of growth inhibitory factors by ORS cells may provide a mechanism through which the hair-growth cycle is regulated by cell survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3596-3603
Number of pages8
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 1999


  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-x(L)
  • Growth inhibitory factors
  • Hair


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