Hair growth control by innate immunocytes: Perifollicular macrophages revisited

Ferhan Muneeb, Jonathan A. Hardman, Ralf Paus

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The role of innate immunocytes such as mast cells, γδ T cells, NK cells and macrophages (MACs) in hair growth control under physiological and pathological conditions has recently begun to be re-explored. Here, we revisit the role of resident perifollicular macrophages (pfMACs) located in the hair follicle (HF) mesenchyme (CTS). Substantial, stringently timed fluctuations in the number and localization of pfMACs were first observed long ago during murine HF morphogenesis and cycling. This already suggested some involvement of these innate immunocytes, with a recognized role in tissue remodelling and in hair growth control. The relatively recent demonstration of a Wnt signalling-driven crosstalk between these immunocytes and HF epithelial stem cells in telogen HFs, which promotes anagen induction, has reinvigorated interest in the role that pfMAC plays in hair biology. Besides the apoptosis-associated secretion of stem cell–activating Wnts and the differential secretion of HF-targeting growth factors such as FGF-5 and FGF5s from pfMACs, we also explore how MAC polarization, and thus function, may be influenced by the local metabolic and immune environment. Moreover, we examine how pfMACs may contribute to hair cycle–associated angiogenesis, vascular remodelling, HF immune privilege and immunopathology. On this basis, we discuss why targeting pfMACs may be relevant in the management of hair growth disorders. Finally, we argue that studying pfMACs offers an excellent, clinically relevant model system for characterizing and experimentally manipulating MAC interactions with an easily accessible mammalian, continuously remodelled (mini-)organ under both physiological and pathological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-431
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Dermatology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2019


  • hair cycle
  • hair follicle
  • immunology
  • macrophages
  • skin


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