Dynamic expression of Runx1 in skin affects hair structure.
The three mammalian Runx transcription factors, some of which are known to be involved in human genetic diseases and cancer, are pivotal players in embryo development and function as key regulators of cell fate determination and organogenesis. Here, we report the expression of Runx1 during the development of hair and other skin appendages in the mouse and describe the effect of Runx1 on the structural hair output. In hair follicles, where the three Runx proteins are expressed, Runx1 expression is most prominent in both mesenchymal and epithelial compartments. The epithelial expression includes the hair keratin forming layers of the hair shaft and the bulge, where interestingly, Runx1 is co-expressed with keratin 15, a putative hair follicle stem cell marker. In the hair mesenchyme, during early stages of hair morphogenesis, Runx1 is expressed in a discrete dermal sub-epithelial layer, while at later stages it is found in a hair cycle dependent pattern in the dermal papilla. To elucidate the function of Runx1 in the hair follicle we have generated a Runx1 epidermal conditional knockout and found that the mutant mice display a remarkable structural deformation of the zigzag hair type. The data delineate Runx1 as a novel specific marker of several hair follicle cell types and sheds light on its role in hair morphogenesis and differentiation.