The Journal of investigative dermatology

Ceramide synthase 4 regulates stem cell homeostasis and hair follicle cycling.

PMID 25705848


Ceramides are crucial for skin barrier function, but little is known about the regulation of epidermal appendages and whether stem cell populations that control their regeneration depend on specific ceramide species. Here we demonstrate that ceramide synthase 4 (CerS4) is highly expressed in the epidermis of adult mice where it is localized in the interfollicular epidermis and defined populations within the pilosebaceous unit. Inactivation of CerS4 in mice resulted in precocious activation of hair follicle bulge stem cells while expanding the Lrig1(+) junctional zone and sebaceous glands. This was preceded first by a decrease in bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and a subsequent increase in Wnt signaling. This imbalance in quiescent versus activating signals likely promoted a prolonged anagen-like hair follicle state after the second catagen, which exhausted stem cells over time ultimately resulting in hair loss in aged mice. K14-Cre-mediated deletion of CerS4 revealed a similar phenotype, thus suggesting an epidermis intrinsic function of CerS4 in regulating the regeneration of the pilosebaceous unit. The data indicate that CerS4-directed epidermal ceramide composition is essential to control hair follicle stem and progenitor cell behavior potentially through its regulation of BMP and Wnt signaling.