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Hoxc13 is a crucial regulator of murine hair cycle

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Hair follicles undergo cyclical growth and regression during postnatal life. Hair regression is an apoptosis-driven process strictly controlled by micro- and macro-environmental signals. However, how these signals are controlled remains largely unknown. Hoxc13, a member of the Hox gene family, is reported to play an important role in hair follicle differentiation. In the present study, we observed that Hoxc13 was highly expressed in the outer root sheath, matrix, medulla and inner root sheath of hair follicles in a hair cycle-dependent manner. We therefore investigated the role of Hoxc13 in hair follicle cycling. Injection of ShRNA (ShHoxc13) to suppress Hoxc13 in early anagen promoted premature catagen entry, shown by significantly decreased hair length and hair bulb size, increased percentage of catagen hair follicles, hair cycle score and TUNEL+ cells and inhibited proliferation. In contrast, local injection of recombinant Hoxc13 polypeptide (rhHoxc13) during the late anagen phase prolonged the anagen phase. Additionally, rhHoxc13 injections during the telogen phase significantly promoted hair growth and induced the anagen progression. At the molecular level, the expression of phosphorylated smad2 (p-smad2), a key factor of active TGF-β1 signaling, was up-regulated in the ShHoxc13-treated hair follicles and down-regulated in rhHoxc13-treated hair follicles, suggesting that Hoxc13 might block anagen–catagen transition by inhibiting the TGF-β1 signaling. Taken together, our data strongly suggest that Hoxc13 is a novel and crucial regulator of the hair cycle. This might also provide an understanding of the mechanism of the ‘hair cycle clock’ and the development of alopecia treatments.

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Dickkopf 1


Inner root sheath


Outer root sheath


Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


Phosphate-buffered saline


Polyvinylidene fluoride


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This work was supported by grants from the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Grant number: 31170924) and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (106112015CDJRC231206) to Mingxing Lei. We thank Dr. Randall B. Widelitz (University of Southern California) for carefully revising the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jinjin Wu.

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Weiming Qiu and Mingxing Lei contributed equally to this work.

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Qiu, W., Lei, M., Tang, H. et al. Hoxc13 is a crucial regulator of murine hair cycle. Cell Tissue Res 364, 149–158 (2016).

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