Autophagy induces hair follicle stem cell activation and hair follicle regeneration by regulating glycolysis

Posted on February 06, 2024

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Source: National Library of Medicine


Background: Hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) typically remain quiescent and are activated only during the transition from telogen to anagen to ensure that the hair follicle enters a new cycle. The metabolic behavior of stem cells in tissues is regulated by macroautophagy/autophagy, and changes in HFSC metabolism directly affect their activation and maintenance. However, the role of autophagy in the regulation of HFSC metabolism and function remains unclear. Autophagy is your body’s process of reusing old and damaged cell parts.

Methods: Back skin samples were obtained from mice at different hair follicle cycle stages, and immunofluorescence staining was used to monitor autophagy in HFSCs. Mouse and human hair follicles were treated with rapamycin (Rapa, an autophagy activator) or 3-methyladenine (3-MA, an autophagy inhibitor). The effects of autophagy on the hair follicle cycle and HFSC were investigated by imaging, cell proliferation staining, and HFSC-specific marker staining. The influence and mechanism of autophagy on HFSC metabolism were explored using RNA sequencing, real-time polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemical staining, and detection of lactate and glucose concentrations. Finally, the influence of autophagy-induced glycolysis on HFSC and the hair follicle cycle was verified by stem cell characteristics and in vivo functional experiments.

Results: Autophagy in HFSC was highest during the transition from telogen to anagen. Inhibiting autophagy with 3-MA led to early entry into catagen and prolonged telogen, whereas Rapa promoted autophagy and hair growth. Autophagy activated HFSC by increasing the expression and activity of HFSC lactate dehydrogenase (Ldha), thereby transforming HFSC metabolism into glycolysis. Inhibition of Ldha expression counteracted the effects of autophagy.

Conclusions: Autophagy activated HFSC by promoting the transition from HFSC metabolism to glycolysis, ultimately initiating the hair follicle cycle and promoting hair growth.