Multipotent stem cells with neural crest-like properties have been identified in the dermis of human skin. These neural crest stem cell (NCSC)-like cells display self-renewal capacity and differentiate into neural crest derivatives, including epidermal pigment-producing melanocytes. NCSC-like cells share many properties with aggressive melanoma cells, such as high migratory capabilities and expression of the neural crest markers. However, little is known about which intrinsic or extrinsic signals determine the proliferation or differentiation of these neural crest-like stem cells. Here we show that, in NCSC-like cells, Notch signaling is highly activated, similar to melanoma cells. Inhibition of Notch signaling reduced the proliferation of NCSC-like cells, induced cell death, and downregulated noncanonical Wnt5a, suggesting that the Notch pathway contributes to the maintenance and motility of these stem cells. In three-dimensional skin reconstructs, canonical Wnt signaling promoted the differentiation of NCSC-like cells into melanocytes. This differentiation was triggered by the endogenous Notch inhibitor Numb, which is upregulated in the stem cells by Wnt7a derived from UV-irradiated keratinocytes. Together, these data reveal a cross talk between the two conserved developmental pathways in postnatal human skin, and highlight the role of the skin microenvironment in specifying the fate of stem cells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology