The mouse hair coat comprises protective "primary" and thermo-regulatory "secondary" hairs. Primary hair formation is ectodysplasin (Eda) dependent, but it has been puzzling that Tabby (Eda-/y) mice still make secondary hair. We report that Dickkopf 4 (Dkk4), a Wnt antagonist, affects an auxiliary pathway for Eda-independent development of secondary hair. A Dkk4 transgene in wild-type mice had no effect on primary hair, but secondary hairs were severely malformed. Dkk4 action on secondary hair was further demonstrated when the transgene was introduced into Tabby mice: the usual secondary follicle induction was completely blocked. The Dkk4-regulated secondary hair pathway, like the Eda-dependent primary hair pathway, is further mediated by selective activation of Shh. The results thus reveal two complex molecular pathways that distinctly regulate subtype-based morphogenesis of hair follicles, and provide a resolution for the longstanding puzzle of hair formation in Tabby mice lacking Eda.
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