The distribution of melanocytes and the degradation of melanosomes in fetal hair follicles.Micron. 2019 04; 119:109-116.M
There have been many studies about the formation, storage, transport and degradation of melanosomes in epidermal melanocytes but studies of melanocytes and melanosomes in fetal hair follicles (HFs) have been limited and ambiguous. The goal of this study was to investigate the distribution of melanocytes and the degradation of melanosomes in fetal HFs. After obtaining approval and informed consent for the study, a scalp specimen from a 5 month gestational age fetus was obtained and was divided into two parts. One part was subjected to immunohistochemical staining with the melanocyte-specific marker HMB-45 and was then observed by light microscopy to detect the distribution of melanocytes in HFs. The other part underwent conventional processing for transmission electron microcopy (TEM). Subsequently, the morphology of melanosomes in HF melanocytes and their degradation in cortical keratinocytes were observed. Immunohistochemically, scattered round melanocytes lacking dendrites were mainly observed along the outer root sheath of the lower part of the HF. A few fusiform or tri-dendritic melanocytes were located at the bottom of the hair bulbs. Significantly melanized melanocytes with multiple dendrites were concentrated in the pigmented area in the center of the hair bulbs, only above the dermal papilla. Analysis by TEM revealed melanocytes containing melanosomes at all stages of development. Autophagosomes containing stage mature IV melanosomes were observed in some melanocytes. Many phagolysosomes containing numerous melanosomes were observed in the cortical keratinocytes. Some phagolysosomes were concentrically surrounded by 3-5 layers of endoplasmic reticulum. Melanosomes that had been degraded or were being degraded in phagolysosomes in keratinocytes had lost their integrity and had become an ill-defined melanosomal dust that were arranged irregularly. Partial melanin particles were released into the cytosol. Melanocytes in different regions of fetal HFs had different morphologies and were at various stages of differentiation. Fetal HF melanocytes contained not only melanosomes at different developmental stages, but autophagosomes were seen occasionally. Melanosomes were degraded into irregular pigment particles in the phagolysosomes of cortical keratinocytes. These results provide important clues to elucidate the mechanism of melanosome biodegradation.