CXCL12 and its receptors, which are highly expressed in the skin, are associated with various cutaneous diseases, including androgenic alopecia. However, their expression and role during the hair cycle are unknown. This study aims to investigate the expression of CXCL12 and its receptor, CXCR4, in the vicinity of hair follicles and their effect on hair growth. CXCL12 was highly expressed in dermal fibroblasts (DFs) and its level was elevated throughout the catagen and telogen phases of the hair cycle. CXCR4 is expressed in the dermal papilla (DP) and outer root sheath (ORS). In hair organ culture, hair loss was induced by recombinant CXCL12 therapy, which delayed the telogen-to-anagen transition and decreased hair length. In contrast, the suppression of CXCL12 using a neutralizing antibody and siRNA triggered the telogen-to-anagen transition and increased hair length in hair organ culture. Neutralization of CXCR7, one of the two receptors for CXCL12, only slightly affected hair growth. However, inhibition of CXCR4, the other receptor for CXCL12, increased hair growth to a considerable extent. In addition, in hair organ culture, the conditioned medium from DFs with CXCL12 siRNA considerably increased the hair length and induced proliferation of DP and ORS cells. CXCL12, through CXCR4 activation, increased STAT3 and STAT5 phosphorylation in DP and ORS cells. In contrast, blocking CXCL12 and CXCR4 decreased the phosphorylation of STAT3 and STAT5. In summary, these findings suggest that CXCL12 inhibits hair growth via the CXCR4/STAT signaling pathway and that CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway inhibitors are a promising treatment option for hair growth.
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