Shift of Localized Growth Zones Contributes to Skin Appendage Morphogenesis: Role of the Wnt/β-catenin Pathway

Department of Pathology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 2011 Zonal Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.
Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Impact Factor: 6.37). 01/2003; 120(1):20-26. DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.2003.12008.x

ABSTRACT Skin appendage formation represents a process of regulated new growth. Bromodeoxyuridine labeling of developing chicken skin demonstrated the presence of localized growth zones, which first promote appendage formation and then move within each appendage to produce specific shapes. Initially, cells proliferate all over the presumptive skin. During the placode stage they are organized to form periodic rings. At the short feather bud stage, the localized growth zones shifted to the posterior and then the distal bud. During the long bud stage, the localized growth zones descended through the flank region toward the feather collar (equivalent to the hair matrix). During feather branch formation, the localized growth zones were positioned periodically in the basilar layer to enhance branching of barb ridges. Wnts were expressed in a dynamic fashion during feather morphogenesis that coincided with the shifting localized growth zones positions. The expression pattern of Wnt 6 was examined and compared with other members of the Wnt pathway. Early in feather development Wnt 6 expression overlapped with the location of the localized growth zones. Its function was tested through misexpression studies. Ectopic Wnt 6 expression produced abnormal localized outgrowths from the skin appendages at either the base, the shaft, or the tip of the developing feathers. Later in feather filament morphogenesis, several Wnt markers were expressed in regions undergoing rearrangements and differentiation of barb ridge keratinocytes. These data suggest that skin appendages are built to specific shapes by adding new cells from well-positioned and controlled localized growth zones and that Wnt activity is involved in regulating such localized growth zone activity.

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