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The concept of the onychodermis (specialized nail mesenchyme): an embryological assessment and a comparative analysis with the hair follicle


Klaus Sellheyer, MD,

Nelson Dermatopathology Associates, 5755 Dupree Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30327, USA

Tel: +1 678 799 2535




Recently, an intriguing concept was introduced into the literature that defines the area underlying the nail bed as a specific mesenchymal substructure unique to the nail organ. It has been termed onychodermis. The onychodermis expresses CD10 with remarkable specificity. Herein, we compare adult and fetal human hair follicles with fetal nail organs in an attempt to draw analogies for the mesenchyme associated with both adnexal structures.


We examined immunohistochemically samples from adult and fetal hair follicles for the expression of CD10, CD34 and the mesenchymal stem cell marker nestin and compared the antigen profile with that of the fetal nail organ.


The CD10-positive/CD34-negative onychodermis is prominently visible at the end of the second trimester. A corresponding follicular structure was not identified, either in the adult or in the developing hair follicle. Nestin staining does not define the onychodermis.


The concept of the onychodermis is equally valid in the developing nail organ where it is also defined by its expression for CD10. Its function may be related to the anchorage of the overlying nail bed but may also involve a more dynamic role in the induction of hard keratins in the latter, contributing to the formation of the nail plate.