Many vertebrate tissues, including skin, are known to develop as a consequence of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. Much less is known about the role of cell-cell interaction within the epithelial or the mesenchymal compartments in morphogenesis. To investigate cell-cell interactions during skin development, and the potential role of the Notch homolog in this process, we cloned the mouse homolog of Notch (mNotch) and studied its expression pattern, starting as early as mesoderm formation. The novel application of double-labeled in situ hybridization in vertebrates allowed high resolution analysis to follow the fate of mNotch expressing cells directly. In comparison with the distribution of Id mRNA, analysis confirmed that in the hair follicle high levels of mNotch are expressed exclusively in the epithelial compartment. Hair follicle matrix cells start expressing mNotch as different cell types become distinguishable in the developing follicle. mNotch mRNA expression persists throughout the growth phase of the follicle and maintains the same expression profile in the second hair cycle. The cells in the follicle that undergo a phase of high level mNotch expression are in transition from mitotic precursors to several discreet, differentiating cell types. Our observations point out that both in time (during development) and in space (by being removed one cell layer from the dermal papilla) mNotch expression is clearly separated from the inductive interactions. This is a novel finding and suggests that mNotch is important for follicular differentiation and possibly cell fate selection within the follicle.

This content is only available as a PDF.