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Keywords:

  • growth-associated protein 43;
  • morphogenesis;
  • nerve fiber;
  • neuropeptide;
  • neurotransmitter;
  • protein gene product 9.5

Abstract

The innervation of hair follicles offers an intriguing, yet hardly studied model for the dissection of the stepwise innervation during cutaneous morphogenesis. We have used immunofluorescence and a panel of neuronal markers to characterize the developmental choreography of C57BL/6 mouse backskin innervation. The development of murine skin innervation occurs in successive waves. The first cutaneous nerve fibers appeared before any morphological evidence of hair follicle development at embryonic day 15 (E15). Stage 1 and 2 developing hair follicles were already associated with nerve fibers at E16. These fibers approached a location where later in development the follicular (neural) network A (FNA) is located on fully developed pelage hair follicles. Prior to birth (E18), some nerve fibers had penetrated the epidermis, and an additional set of perifollicular nerve fibers arranged itself around the isthmus and bulge region of stage 5 hair follicles, to develop into the follicular (neural) network B (FNB). By the day of birth (P1), the neuropeptides substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide became detectable in subcutaneous and dermal nerve fibers first. Newly formed hair follicles on E18 and P1 displayed the same innervation pattern seen in the first wave of hair follicle development. Just prior to epidermal penetration of hair shafts (P5), peptide histidine methionine-IR nerve fibers became detectable and epidermal innervation peaked; such innervation decreased after penetration (P7– P17). Last, tyrosine hydroxylase-IR and neuropeptide Y-IR became readily detectable. This sequence of developing innervation consistently correlates with hair follicle development, indicating a close interdependence of neuronal and epithelial morphogenesis. J. Comp. Neurol. 448:28–52, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.