Investigations of the function of the hairless (hr) gene have not only moved us closer to understanding the molecular mechanisms of hair loss, but have also shown that the gene has a complex role to play in its own expression and the expression of a range of other genes (Genes Dev 2001, 20:2687-2701).

Catherine Thompson, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology & Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and her team at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, found that the Hr protein is not only involved in hair loss — something that has long been known — but it is also a new class of molecule which represses gene expression by binding to thyroid hormone receptors (TRs).

When TRs are bound to their natural ligand — thyroid hormone — they are known to control in ways not yet fully understood,...

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