Epidermal stem cells are essential for maintaining a constant supply of cells that ensure proper hair cycling and for the formation of the barrier provided by the skin.
Epidermal stem cells reside in specialized niches at the basal layer of the interfollicular epidermis and at the permanent area of the hair follicle.
There is an unexpected heterogeneity among the hair follicle stem cells, generating specialized populations that display functional differences and differential lineage preference.
The microenvironment of the hair follicle contributes to the regulation of stem cell function, but hair follicle stem cells also instruct the behaviour other cell types and structures around the hair follicle.
In the past years, our view of the molecular and cellular mechanisms that ensure the self-renewal of the skin has dramatically changed. Several populations of stem cells have been identified that differ in their spatio-temporal contribution to their compartment in steady-state and damaged conditions, suggesting that epidermal stem cell heterogeneity is far greater than previously anticipated. There is also increasing evidence that these different stem cells require a tightly controlled spatial and temporal communication between other skin residents to carry out their function.
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G.S. was funded by the AXA Research Fund. The authors apologize to their colleagues whose work could not be cited owing to space constraints.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
- Cornified cells
Epidermal keratinocytes that have undergone a process of terminal differentiation whereby they form a mesh of crosslinked proteins that confers impermeability and barrier protection.
- Lineage-tracing techniques
Genetic tagging of a certain cell type that allows following its fate and that of its progeny during a particular process, such as development, homeostasis or carcinogenesis.
Condensate of embryonic epidermal cells that invaginate into the dermis to form the embryonic hair follicle structures.
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Solanas, G., Benitah, S. Regenerating the skin: a task for the heterogeneous stem cell pool and surrounding niche. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 14, 737–748 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrm3675
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