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June 1999

The "Hairless" Gene in Mouse and Man

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Arch Dermatol. 1999;135(6):718-720. doi:10-1001/pubs.Arch Dermatol.-ISSN-0003-987x-135-6-dlt0699

A recent study in Science1 correlated the mouse hairless gene with a homologous gene in humans who have a rare form of generalized hair loss. A brief overview of this mutation that causes hair loss in mice and humans is provided to put this discovery into proper context.

The first description of mice that phenotypically appeared similar to mice homozygous for the currently most used hairless mutation (gene symbol: hr) was reported by Gaskoin in 1856.2 These mice, called rhinoceros mice by the people who discovered them, lacked hair and had very wrinkled or corrugated skin. Gaskoin made reference to a similar preserved specimen in the Museum of the College of Surgeons, London, England, that was collected in 1820. The mutant mouse that we call the rhino today (gene symbol: hrrh), an allele of the hairless mutation, arose spontaneously in 1939 at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec.3 The hairless mutation, first described in 1926,4 is an autosomal, recessive mutation in the laboratory mouse that maps to mouse chromosome 14 and was recently cloned and sequenced.5 New mutations at this locus that have gross and histological features similar to these hairless and rhino mutant mice continue to arise spontaneously.6,7

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