Two succeeding fibroblastic lineages drive dermal development and the transition from regeneration to scarring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


During fetal development, mammalian back-skin undergoes a natural transition in response to injury, from scarless regeneration to skin scarring. Here, we characterize dermal morphogenesis and follow two distinct embryonic fibroblast lineages, based on their history of expression of the engrailed 1 gene. We use single-cell fate-mapping, live three dimensional confocal imaging and in silico analysis coupled with immunolabelling to reveal unanticipated structural and regional complexity and dynamics within the dermis. We show that dermal development and regeneration are driven by engrailed 1-history-naive fibroblasts, whose numbers subsequently decline. Conversely, engrailed 1-history-positive fibroblasts possess scarring abilities at this early stage and their expansion later on drives scar emergence. The transition can be reversed, locally, by transplanting engrailed 1-naive cells. Thus, fibroblastic lineage replacement couples the decline of regeneration with the emergence of scarring and creates potential clinical avenues to reduce scarring.


External organisations
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München
  • German Center for Lung Research (DZL)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cell and Molecular Biology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-431
Number of pages10
JournalNature Cell Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 1
Publication categoryResearch