Ber-EP4 antigen is a marker for a cell population related to the secondary hair germ

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Ber-EP4 is an antibody to a cell membrane glycoprotein of unknown function. In the skin, Ber-EP4 immunoreactivity has been reported to be localized in structures composed of basaloid epithelial cells, i.e. fetal epithelial germ cells, basal cell carcinoma, and trichoepithelioma as well as eccrine or apocrine ducts. In this study, we further characterized the follicular expression of Ber-EP4 immunoreactivity at different stages of the hair cycle of human terminal hair follicles. In addition, to clarify the location of Ber-EP4+ cells, we compared the Ber-EP4 immunoreactivity with the expression of keratin 15 and keratin 19. Positive staining by Ber-EP4 was found in the lower part of the epithelial strand of late catagen hair follicles, in the secondary hair germ of telogen hair follicles, and in the matrix of early anagen hair follicles but not in any parts of mature anagen hair follicles. In contrast, the follicular expression of keratin 15 detected by using LHK15 antibody was restricted to two distinct parts of anagen hair follicles, i.e. the outer root sheath above the hair bulb and that of the isthmus including the bulge area, and to the outer root sheath of late catagen and telogen hair follicles. The follicular expressions of keratin 19 and that of keratin 15 were apparently superimposed, whereas keratin 15 expression was more extended. The immunoreactivity of LHK15 antibody and antikeratin 19 antibody against the secondary hair germ of telogen follicles was negative or dim. Our results suggest that Ber-EP4 reacts with the secondary hair germ and possibly a cell population related to the secondary hair germ but not with the presumptive stem cell population as revealed immunohistochemically either by the keratin 15 or keratin 19 expression.

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