Dedicated Epithelial Recipient Cells Determine Pigmentation Patterns

Lorin Weiner, Rong Han, Bianca Maria Scicchitano, Jian Li, Kiyotaka Hasegawa, Maddalena Grossi, David Lee, Janice L. Brissette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

76 Citations (Scopus)


Mammals generate external coloration via dedicated pigment-producing cells but arrange pigment into patterns through mechanisms largely unknown. Here, using mice as models, we show that patterns ultimately emanate from dedicated pigment-receiving cells. These pigment recipients are epithelial cells that recruit melanocytes to their position in the skin and induce the transfer of melanin. We identify Foxn1 (a transcription factor) as an activator of this "pigment recipient phenotype" and Fgf2 (a growth factor and Foxn1 target) as a signal released by recipients. When Foxn1-and thus dedicated recipients-are redistributed in the skin, new patterns of pigmentation develop, suggesting a mechanism for the evolution of coloration. We conclude that recipients provide a cutaneous template or blueprint that instructs melanocytes where to place pigment. As Foxn1 and Fgf2 also modulate epithelial growth and differentiation, the Foxn1 pathway should serve as a nexus coordinating cell division, differentiation, and pigmentation. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)932-942
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Cell Biology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Hair Color
  • Hair Follicle
  • Humans
  • Keratin-15
  • Keratin-5
  • Keratinocytes
  • Melanins
  • Melanocytes
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Molecular Biology
  • Phenotype
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transduction, Genetic


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