Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cells Take Sole Responsibility for Merkel Cell Maintenance


Researchers have identified a population of “progenitor” cells in the skin that are solely responsible for the generation and maintenance of touch-sensing Merkel cells. The study appears in The Journal of Cell Biology.

Merkel cells are unique cells located in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. Through connections to nerve endings, Merkel cells play critical roles in our sense of touch. They are hypothesized to be the cells that undergo cancerous transformation and cause Merkel cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer with no effective treatment.

Wright et al., 2015

After six months, whisker follicles in adult mice lacking Atoh1-expressing progenitor skin cells (left) have a deficiency of Merkel cells (green) compared with a control group (right).

Merkel cells require a transcription factor called Atoh1 for their specification. But the identity of the progenitor, or stem cells, that give rise to Merkel cells during embryonic development and adulthood is unclear.

In the study, Stephen Maricich and colleagues identified a subpopulation of Atoh1-expressing cells in hair and whisker follicles within mouse skin that exclusively give rise to Merkel cells during development and adulthood. Removing Atoh1-positive skin cells in adult mice led to a permanent reduction in Merkel cell numbers, showing that other stem cell populations are incapable of producing Merkel cells.

Importantly, the findings suggest that, if Merkel cell carcinoma does arise from Merkel cell progenitors, then Atoh1-positive Merkel cell precursors could be the cells of origin. This discovery will therefore help researchers dissect the cell-specific events mediating tumorigenesis in the particular case of Merkel cell carcinoma.

Wright, M.C., et al. 2015. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.201407101

About The Journal of Cell Biology
The Journal of Cell Biology (JCB) is published by The Rockefeller University Press. All editorial decisions on manuscripts submitted are made by active scientists in conjunction with our in-house scientific editors. JCB content is posted to PubMed Central, where it is available to the public for free six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their published works, and third parties may reuse the content for non-commercial purposes under a creative commons license. For more information, please visit

Research reported in the press release was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research.

Contact Information
Rita Sullivan King
Communications Manager
Phone: 212-327-8603

Rita Sullivan King | newswise
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>