Control of hair growth and follicle size by VEGF-mediated angiogenesis

Kiichiro Yano, Lawrence F. Brown,2 and Michael Detmar
Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA2Department of Pathology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Received September 12, 2000; Accepted January 11, 2001.

The murine hair follicle undergoes pronounced cyclic expansion and regression, leading to rapidly changing demands for its vascular support. Our study aimed to quantify the cyclic changes of perifollicular vascularization and to characterize the biological role of VEGF for hair growth, angiogenesis, and follicle cycling. We found a significant increase in perifollicular vascularization during the growth phase (anagen) of the hair cycle, followed by regression of angiogenic blood vessels during the involution (catagen) and the resting (telogen) phase. Perifollicular angiogenesis was temporally and spatially correlated with upregulation of VEGF mRNA expression by follicular keratinocytes of the outer root sheath, but not by dermal papilla cells. Transgenic overexpression of VEGF in outer root sheath keratinocytes of hair follicles strongly induced perifollicular vascularization, resulting in accelerated hair regrowth after depilation and in increased size of hair follicles and hair shafts. Conversely, systemic treatment with a neutralizing anti-VEGF antibody led to hair growth retardation and reduced hair follicle size. No effects of VEGF treatment or VEGF blockade were observed in mouse vibrissa organ cultures, which lack a functional vascular system. These results identify VEGF as a major mediator of hair follicle growth and cycling and provide the first direct evidence that improved follicle vascularization promotes hair growth and increases hair follicle and hair size.

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