Elaine Fuchs

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Pr Elaine Fuchs at the 2010 UNESCO-L’Oréal Prize for Women in Science Awards Ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

Elaine Fuchs (born 1940) is an American cell biologist, famous for her work on the biology and molecular mechanisms of mammalian skin and skin diseases, and has led the modernization of dermatology. Fuchs also pioneered reverse genetics approaches, which assess protein function first and then assesses its role in development and disease. In particular, Fuchs researches skin stem cells, and their production of hair and skin. As an HHMI investigator, she is currently the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller University.


Fuchs grew up outside Chicago, in a family of scientists—her father, aunt, and sister were also scientists, and her family encouraged her to pursue higher education.[1]

Fuchs earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1972 from the University of Illinois, graduating with highest distinction in the Chemical Sciences. She began as one of only three women in an undergraduate physics class of 200. Fuchs was politically active during college, protesting the Vietnam War and applying to the Peace Corps. However, when she was assigned to Uganda, then under the dictatorship of Idi Amin, she elected to go directly to graduate school instead.[1]

Fuchs earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton University, working with Charles Gilvarg. For her doctoral work, Fuchs studied changes in bacterial cell walls—the biosynthesis and assembly of the cell wall of bacillus megaterium.

Fuchs began her career-defining work on skin biology during her postdoctoral work with Howard Green at MIT. In Green's lab she studied the mechanisms underlying growth and differentiation in epidermal keratinocytes.

Fuchs accepted a faculty position at the University of Chicago in 1980, as the first woman in the biochemistry department. She was mentored and befriended by Janet Rowley and Susan Lindquist, and eventually they all joined the reorganized Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, in which Fuchs was ultimately appointed the Amgen Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology.

In 2002, Fuchs accepted a position at Rockefeller University, where she is currently the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development and the HHMI.

Fuchs is known for her support of women in science, and has stated that

Senior women who are recognized by their peers as being successful have a responsibility to help educate those scientists who haven't quite accepted this important message. And we have a responsibility to maintain the highest scientific and ethical standards and to serve as the best role models we can for the younger generation of outstanding scientists - both men and women - who are rising through the ranks. Leading by good example is still the best way to diffuse the now more subtle and less vocal, but nevertheless lingering, discrimination and dogmatism against women scientists within our scientific community."[1]

Fuchs has also continued her concern for social and ethical issues, remarking at 2000 commencement address at the University of Chicago:

I now balance the joy of discovery with the necessity of taking seriously ethical and educational concerns at the nexus of science and society today. Indeed, for the world of science to be a successful one, it must be a science of the world. It must be a science that embodies concern for the world of the next millennium. Your education has taught you to be morally and ethically responsible, and to bring philosophical reflection into your chosen profession, your community, and your life as a whole.[2]

Fuchs is married to a fellow academic, David Hansen. She currently sits on the board of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. She was elected president of the American Society for Cell Biology in 2001.


Fuchs is known for revolutionizing the study of skin, identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying skin disease, developing the field of skin stem cells, and pioneering reverse genetics.

Her Dickson Prize nominator said of Fuchs that "Her innovative reverse genetic approach and landmark discoveries in our understanding of the underlying bases for inherited human disorders and cancers places her in the top cadre of the most creative scientists worldwide." She is listed as one of the ISI's most highly cited researchers.[3]

Fuchs uses the mouse and mammalian epithelial stem cell culture as model systems.

Graduates of Fuchs' Lab

Significant Papers

Selected Publications

  1. Beronja S, Janki P, Heller E, Lien WH, Keyes BE, Oshimori N, Fuchs E. "RNAi screens in mice identify physiological regulators of oncogenic growth." Nature 501(7466):185-90 (2013).
  2. Chang CY, Pasolli HA, Giannopoulou EG, Guasch G, Gronostajski RM, Elemento O, Fuchs E. "NFIB is a governor of epithelial-melanocyte stem cell behaviour in a shared niche." Nature 495(7439):98-102 (2013).
  3. Lu CP, Polak L, Rocha AS, Pasolli HA, Chen SC, Sharma N, Blanpain C, Fuchs E. "Sweat glands grown from newly identified stem cells." Cell 150(1):136-150 (2012).
  4. Fuchs E. "The impact of cell culture on stem cell research." Cell Stem Cell 10(6):640-1 (2012).
  5. Chen T, Heller E, Beronja S, Oshimori N, Stokes N, Fuchs E. "An RNA interference screen uncovers a new molecule in stem cell self-renewal and long-term regeneration." Nature 485(7396):104-8 (2012).
  6. Oshimori N, Fuchs E. "Paracrine TGF-β Signaling Counterbalances BMP-Mediated Repression in Hair Follicle Stem Cell Activation." Cell Stem Cell 10(1):63-75 (2012).
  7. Lien WH, Guo X, Polak L, Lawton LN, Young RA, Zheng D, Fuchs E. "Genome-wide Maps of Histone Modifications Unwind In Vivo Chromatin States of the Hair Follicle Lineage." Cell Stem Cell 9(3):219-32 (2011) .
  8. Ezratty EJ, Stokes N, Chai S, Shah AS, Williams SE, Fuchs E. "A role for the primary cilium in Notch signaling and epidermal differentiation during skin development." Cell 145(7):1129-41 (2011).
  9. Schober M, Fuchs E. "Tumor-initiating stem cells of squamous cell carcinomas and their control by TGF-β and integrin/focal adhesion kinase (FAK) signaling." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108(26):10544-9 (2011).
  10. Fuchs E. "Reflections of an ISSCR president, 2010-2011." Cell Stem Cell 8(6):629-30 (2011).
  11. Zhang L, Stokes N, Polak L, Fuchs E. "Specific MicroRNAs Are Preferentially Expressed by Skin Stem Cells To Balance Self-Renewal and Early Lineage Commitment." Cell Stem Cell 8(3):294-308 (2011).
  12. Luxenburg C, Amalia Pasolli H, Williams SE, Fuchs E. "Developmental roles for Srf, cortical cytoskeleton and cell shape in epidermal spindle orientation." Nat Cell Biol 13(3):203-14 (2011).
  13. Williams SE, Beronja S, Pasolli HA, Fuchs E. "Asymmetric cell divisions promote Notch-dependent epidermal differentiation." Nature 470(7334):353-8 (2011).
  14. Wu X, Shen QT, Oristian DS, Lu CP, Zheng Q, Wang HW, Fuchs E. "Skin Stem Cells Orchestrate Directional Migration by Regulating Microtubule-ACF7 Connections through GSK3β." Cell 144(3):341-52 (2011).
  15. Hsu YC, Pasolli HA, Fuchs E. "Dynamics between stem cells, niche, and progeny in the hair follicle." Cell 144(1):92-105 (2011).
  16. Ezhkova E, Fuchs E."Regenerative medicine: An eye to treating blindness." Nature 466(7306):567-8 (2010).
  17. Beronja S, Livshits G, Williams S, Fuchs E. "Rapid functional dissection of genetic networks via tissue-specific transduction and RNAi in mouse embryos." Nat Med 16(7):821-7 (2010).
  18. Nguyen H, Merrill BJ, Polak L, Nikolova M, Rendl M, Shaver TM, Pasolli HA, Fuchs E. "Tcf3 and Tcf4 are essential for long-term homeostasis of skin epithelia." Nat Genet 41(10):1068-1075 (2009).
  19. Fuchs E. "Building confidence:the transition from student to professor." Nat Cell Biol 11(7):786 (2009).
  20. Silva JM, Ezhkova E, Silva J, Heart S, Castillo M, Campos Y, Castro V, Bonilla F, Cordon-Cardo C, Muthuswamy SK, Powers S, Fuchs E, Hannon GJ. "Cyfip1 is a putative invasion suppressor in epithelial cancers." Cell 137(6):1047-61 (2009).
  21. Fuchs E. "The tortoise and the hair: slow-cycling cells in the stem cell race." Cell 137(5):811-9 (2009).
  22. Ezhkova E, Pasolli HA, Parker JS, Stokes N, Su IH, Hannon G, Tarakhovsky A, Fuchs E. "Ezh2 orchestrates gene expression for the stepwise differentiation of tissue-specific stem cells." Cell 136(6):1122-35 (2009).
  23. Blanpain C, Fuchs E. "Epidermal homeostasis: a balancing act of stem cells in the skin." Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 10(3):207-17 (2009).
  24. Greco V, Chen T, Rendl M, Schober M, Pasolli HA, Stokes N, Dela Cruz-Racelis J, Fuchs E. "A two-step mechanism for stem cell activation during hair regeneration." Cell Stem Cell 4(2):155-69 (2009).
  25. Wu X, Kodama A, Fuchs E. "ACF7 regulates cytoskeletal-focal adhesion dynamics and migration and has ATPase activity." Cell 135(1):137-48 (2008).
  26. Devenport D, Fuchs E. "Planar polarization in embryonic epidermis orchestrates global asymmetric morphogenesis of hair follicles." Nat Cell Biol 10(11):1257-68 (2008).
  27. Nowak JA, Polak L, Pasolli HA, Fuchs E. "Hair follicle stem cells are specified and function in early skin morphogenesis." Cell Stem Cell. 3(1):33-43 (2008).
  28. Yi R, Poy MN, Stoffel M, Fuchs E. "A skin microRNA promotes differentiation by repressing 'stemness'." Nature 452(7184): 225-9 (2008).
  29. Horsley V, Aliprantis AO, Polak L, Glimcher LH, and Fuchs E. "NFATc1 Balances Quiescence and Proliferation of Skin Stem Cells." Cell 132: 299-310, (2008).
  30. Guasch G, Schober M, Pasolli HA, Conn EB, Polak L, Fuchs E. "Loss of TGFbeta signaling destabilizes homeostasis and promotes squamous cell carcinomas in stratified epithelia." Cancer Cell. 12(4):313-27 (2007).
  31. Schober M, Raghavan S, Nikolova M, Polak L, Pasolli HA, Beggs HE, Reichardt LF, Fuchs E. "Focal adhesion kinase modulates tension signaling to control actin and focal adhesion dynamics." J Cell Biol 176: 667-680 (2007).
  32. Fuchs E. "Scratching the surface of skin development." Nature 445: 834-842 (2007).
  33. Li J, Greco V, Guasch G, Fuchs E, Mombaerts P. "Mice cloned from skin cells." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104: 2738-2743 (2007).
  34. Nguyen H, Rendl M, Fuchs E. "Tcf3 governs stem cell features and represses cell fate determination in the skin." Cell 127: 171-183 (2006).
  35. Horsley V, O'Carroll D, Tooze R, Ohinata Y, Saitou M, Obukhanych T, Nussenzweig M, Tarakhovsky A, and Fuchs E. "Blimp1 defines a progenitor population that governs cellular input to the sebaceous gland." Cell 126(3):597-609 (2006).
  36. Rhee H, Polak L, and Fuchs E. "Lhx2 maintains stem cell character in hair follicles." Science 312:1946-9 (2006).
  37. Perez-Moreno M., Davis MA, Wong E, Pasolli HA, Reynolds AB, and Fuchs E. "p120-catenin mediates inflammatory responses in the skin." Cell 124: 631-44 (2006).
  38. Yi R, O'Carroll D, Pasolli HA, Zhang Z, Dietrich FS, Tarakhovsky A, and Fuchs E. "Morphogenesis in skin is governed by discrete sets of differentially expressed microRNAs." Nat Genet 38: 356-62 (2006).
  39. Rendl M, Lewis L, and Fuchs E. "Molecular dissection of mesenchymal-epithelial interactions in the hair follicle." PLoS Biol 3: 1910-23 (2005).
  40. Lechler T and Fuchs E. "Asymmetric cell divisions promote stratification and differentiation of mammalian skin." Nature 437: 275-280 (2005).
  41. Jamora C, Lee P, Kocieniewski P, Azhar M, Hosokawa R, Chai Y, Fuchs E. "A signaling pathway involving TGF-beta2 and snail in hair follicle morphogenesis." PLoS Biol 3: 131-143 (2005).
  42. Blanpain C, Lowry WE, Geoghegan A, Polak L. and Fuchs E. "Self renewal, multipotency and the existence of two cell populations within an epithelial stem cell niche." Cell 118: 635-648 (2004).
  43. Fuchs E, Tumbar T, and Guasch G. "Socializing with the neighbors: stem cells and their niches." Cell 116: 769-778 (2004).
  44. TumbarT, Guasch G, Greco V, Blanpain C, Lowry WE, Rendl M and Fuchs E. "Defining the epithelial stem cell niche of the skin." Science 303: 359-363 (2004).
  45. Merrill BJ, Pasolli HA, Polak L, Rendl M, Garcia-Garcia MJ, Anderson K, and Fuchs E. "Tcf3: A transcriptional regulator of axis induction in the early embryo." Development 131: 263-274 (2004).
  46. Kobielak K, Pasolli HA, Alonso L, Polak L, and Fuchs E. "Defining BMP functions in the hair follicle by conditional ablation of BMP Receptor IA." J Cell Biol 163: 609-624 (2003).
  47. Kodama A, Karakesisoglou I, Wong E, Polak L, and Fuchs E. "ACF7: An essential integrator of microtubule dynamics." Cell 115: 343-354 (2003).
  48. Kaufman CK, Pasolli HA, Rendl M, Bolotin D, Lim KC,Dai X, Alegre ML, and Fuchs E."GATA-3: An unexpected regulator of cell lineage determination in skin." Genes Dev 17: 2108-2122 (2003).
  49. Perez-Moreno M, Jamora C, and Fuchs E. "Sticky business: orchestrating cellular signals at adherens junctions." Cell 112: 535-48 (2003).
  50. Vaezi A, Bauer C, Vasioukhin V, and Fuchs E. "Actin cable dynamics and Rho/Rock orchestrate a polarized cytoskeletal architecture in assembling a stratified epithelium." Dev Cell 3: 367-381 (2002).
  51. Merrill BJ, Gat U, DasGupta R and Fuchs E. "Tcf3 and Lef1 regulate lineage differentiation of multipotent stem cells in skin." Genes Dev 15: 1688-1705 (2001).
  52. Vasioukhin V, Bauer C, Degenstein L, Wise B, and Fuchs E. "Hyperproliferation and defects in epithelial polarity upon conditional ablation of alpha-catenin in skin." Cell 104: 605-617 (2001).
  53. Vasioukhin V, Bowers E, Bauer C, Degenstein L, and Fuchs E. "Desmoplakin plays an essential role in epidermal sheet formation." Nat Cell Biol 3: 1076-1085 (2001).
  54. Raghavan S, Bauer C, Mundschau G, Li Q, and Fuchs E. "Conditional ablation of beta1 integrin in skin. Severe defects in epidermal proliferation, basement membrane formation, and hair follicle invagination." J Cell Biol 150: 1149-60 (2000).
  55. Vasioukhin V, Bauer C, Yin M, and Fuchs E. "Directed actin polymerization is the driving force for epithelial cell-cell adhesion." Cell 100: 209-219 (2000).
  56. Chan EF, Gat U, McNiff JM, and Fuchs, E. "A common human skin tumour is caused by activating mutations in beta-catenin." Nat Genet 21: 410-3 (1999).
  57. DasGupta R and Fuchs E. "Multiple roles for activated LEF/TCF transcription complexes during hair follicle development and differentiation." Development 126: 4557-68 (1999).
  58. Yang Y, Bauer C, Strasser G, Wollman R, Julien JP and Fuchs E. "Integrators of the cytoskeleton that stabilize microtubules." Cell 98: 229-38 (1999).
  59. Gat U, DasGupta R, Degenstein L, and Fuchs E. "De Novo hair follicle morphogenesis and hair tumors in mice expressing a truncated beta-catenin in Skin." Cell 95: 605-614 (1998).
  60. Fuchs E and Cleveland D. "Structural scaffolding of IFs in health and disease." Science 279: 514-519 (1998).
  61. Yang Y, Dowling J, Yu QC, Kouklis P, Cleveland DW and Fuchs E. "An essential cytoskeletal linker protein connecting actin microfilaments to intermediate filaments." Cell 86: 655-65 (1996).
  62. Guo L, Degenstein L, Dowling J, Yu QC, Wollmann R, Perman B and Fuchs E. "Gene targeting of BPAG1: abnormalities in mechanical strength and cell migration in stratified epithelia and neurologic degeneration." Cell 81: 233-43 (1995).
  63. Paller AS, Syder AJ, Chan YM, Yu QC, Hutton E, Tadini G, and Fuchs E. "Genetic and clinical mosaicism in a type of epidermal nevus." N Engl J Med 331: 1408-15 (1994).
  64. Cheng J, Syder AJ, Yu Q-C, Letai A, Paller AS, and Fuchs E. "The genetic basis of EH, a disorder of differentiation-specific epidermal keratin genes." Cell 70:811-819 (1992).
  65. Coulombe PA, Hutton ME, Letai A, Hebert A, Paller AS and Fuchs E. "Point mutations in human keratin 14 genes of epidermolysis bullosa simplex patients: genetic and functional analyses." Cell 66:1301-11 (1991).
  66. Vassar R, Coulombe PA, Degenstein L, Albers K and Fuch E. "Mutant keratin expression in transgenic mice causes marked abnormalities resembling a human genetic skin disease." Cell 64: 365-80 (1991).
  67. Hanukoglu I and Fuchs E. "The cDNA sequence of type II cytoskeletal keratin reveals constant and variable structural domains among keratins." Cell 33:915-924 (1983).
  68. Hanukoglu I. and Fuchs E. "The cDNA sequence of a human epidermal keratin: Divergence of sequence but conservation of structure among intermediate filament proteins." Cell 31:243-52 (1982).
  69. Fuchs EV, Coppock SM, Green H and Cleveland DW. "Two distinct classes of keratin genes and their evolutionary significance." Cell 27:75-84 (1981).
  70. Fuchs E and Green H. "Regulation of differentiation of keratinocytes by vitamin A." Cell 25:617-625 (1981).
  71. Fuchs E and Green H. "Changes in keratin gene expression during terminal differentiation." Cell 19:1033-1042 (1980).
  72. Fuchs E and Green H. "Multiple keratins of cultured human epidermal cells are translated from different mRNA molecules." Cell 17:573-582 (1979).
  73. Fuchs E and Green H. "Expression of keratin genes in epidermis and cultured epidermal cells." Cell 15:887-897 (1978).

Select honors


  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences ('94),
  • Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences ('94),
  • National Academy of Sciences ('96),
  • American Academy of Microbiology ('97),
  • German Society of Dermatology ('01),
  • Harvey Society ('04), Fellow,
  • New York Academy of Sciences ('04),
  • American Philosophical Society ('05),
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science ('08),
  • Foreign Member, European Molecular Biology Organization ('10),
  • Fellow, Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research ('13).


  • Mt. Sinai School of Medicine at New York University ('03),
  • University of Illinois ('06).


University of Illinois:

  • Phi Beta Kappa,
  • Sigma Xi,
  • Agnes Sloan Larson Award,
  • Reynold Clayton Fuson Award,
  • James Scholar,
  • Bronze Tablet (top 3% of class),
  • graduated w/highest distinction in the curriculum.


  • Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fellow.

Univ. Chicago:

  • Andrew Mellon Fellow (81),
  • Searle Scholar (81-83),
  • NIH Career Development Award (82-87),
  • Presidential Young Investigator (84-89),
  • Nation's 100 brightest scientists under 40 (Science Digest, '84),
  • Nation's Outstanding Scientists, White House ('85),
  • R.R. Bensely Award (Amer. Association of Anatomists, '88),
  • Montagna Award (Soc. Invest. Dermatology, '95),
  • Keith Porter Lecture (ASCB, '96),
  • Senior Women's Career Achievement Award (ASCB, '97),
  • Convocation Address, (U Chicago, '99),
  • Richard Lounsbery Award (National Academy of Sciences, '01),
  • Cartwright Award (Columbia, '02).

Rockefeller University:

  • Cruikshank Award Lecture (Gordon Research Conferences, '02),
  • Richard Lounsbery Lecture (Sackler Symposium on Regenerative Medicine, NAS, '02),
  • Novartis Award in Biomedical Research shared with Phil Sharp and David Botstein ('03),
  • Dickson Prize in Medicine ('04),
  • FASEB Award for Scientific Excellence ('06),
  • Beering Award ('06),
  • Lecturer, College de France (by Invitation of the Assembly of Professors) ('08),
  • Visiting Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa ('09-10),
  • National Medal of Science ('09),
  • L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science ('10)[4]
  • Madison Medal (Princeton U, '11),
  • Passano Award ('11),
  • Albany Medical Center Prize ('11),
  • March of Dimes Prize ('12),
  • New York Academy of Medicine Medal for Biomedical Research ('12),
  • American Skin Association Lifetime Achievement Award ('13),
  • Kligman-Frost Leadership Award, Society of Investigative Dermatology ('13),
  • Pasarow Award for Cancer Research ('13).
  • 2015 E.B. Wilson Medal, ASCB (pending Dec. 2015)


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  3. ISI, Highly Cited Researchers Version 1.1. Retrieved November 29, 2006.[dead link]
  4. L'OREAL-UNESCO Awards and Fellowships for Women in Science 2010 to be presented at UNESCO, UNESCO.org, Retrieved 14 November 2015


External links

Preceded by ASCB Presidents
Succeeded by
Gary Borisy