Wool follicles develop as a consequence of interactions between cells of the epidermis and dermis during intrauterine life. Fibre growth in mature follicles is believed to be governed predominantly by exchanges of signals between these cells and the matrices in which they are embedded. Over the last decade, increasing numbers of growth factors have been implicated in such communications. In particular, these include members of the epidermal growth factor (EGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF), and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) families. Their actions have been shown in studies of skin cells in culture, gene manipulation and physiological experiments with isolated follicles or whole animals. A picture is beginning to emerge of orchestrated morphogenic, mitogenic and differentiative influences between follicle cells, and between cells and their extracellular matrices. When combined with growing technological capability, increases in our understanding of cellular signalling will present novel opportunities for the industry to usefully alter wool growth and fibre characteristics.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 58, , 303-311, 1998
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