Versican is a member of the group of aggregating proteoglycans involved in matrix assembly and structure and in cell adhesion. We examined changes in the distribution of versican in mammalian skin, with emphasis on hair follicle development and cycling. In adult human skin, immunostaining for versican appeared predominantly in the dermis, with intense staining of the reticular dermis. Weak staining was observed at the dermoepidermal junction and the connective tissue sheath of hair follicles. Versican expression was also noted in the reticular dermis of rat skin, within dermal papillae, and possibly associated with follicle basement membranes. During mouse hair follicle development, versican was not expressed until the hair follicles were beginning to produce fibers. With follicle maturation, versican expression intensified in the dermal papillae, reaching a maximum at the height of the growth phase (anagen), after which it diminished as the end of this phase approached. Versican immunoreactivity in the papillae decreased further during catagen and was absent from these structures during telogen. However, intense staining for versican was then observed in the neck regions of telogen follicles. As the follicles entered the next hair cycle, versican disappeared from the necks and was again seen in the dermal papillae when follicles began producing fibers. This type of expression continued throughout subsequent hair cycles and is unlike any other dermal papilla component. The results of this study are consistent with a distinct supportive role for versican in the follicle matrices during hair follicle morphogenesis and cycling.
Keywords: Aging; Animals; Animals, Newborn; Aorta; Blood Vessels; Embryonic and Fetal Development; Extracellular Matrix; Fetus; Hair; Humans; Immunologic Techniques; Lectins, C-Type; Mice; Mice, Inbred Strains; Proteochondroitin Sulfates; Rats; Skin; Versicans