The developmental basis of fingerprint pattern formation and variation

James D. Glover, Zoe R. Sudderick, Barbara Bo-Ju Shih, Cameron Batho-Samblas, Laura Charlton, Andrew L. Krause, Calum Anderson, Jon Riddell, Adam Balic, Jinxi Li, Václav Klika, Thomas E. Woolley, Eamonn A. Gaffney, Andrea Corsinotti, Richard A. Anderson, Luke J. Johnston, Sara J. Brown, Sijia Wang, Yuhang Chen, Michael L. CrichtonDenis J. Headon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


Fingerprints are complex and individually unique patterns in the skin. Established prenatally, the molecular and cellular mechanisms that guide fingerprint ridge formation and their intricate arrangements are unknown. Here we show that fingerprint ridges are epithelial structures that undergo a truncated hair follicle developmental program and fail to recruit a mesenchymal condensate. Their spatial pattern is established by a Turing reaction-diffusion system, based on signaling between EDAR, WNT, and antagonistic BMP pathways. These signals resolve epithelial growth into bands of focalized proliferation under a precociously differentiated suprabasal layer. Ridge formation occurs as a set of waves spreading from variable initiation sites defined by the local signaling environments and anatomical intricacies of the digit, with the propagation and meeting of these waves determining the type of pattern that forms. Relying on a dynamic patterning system triggered at spatially distinct sites generates the characteristic types and unending variation of human fingerprint patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-956.e20
Number of pages37
Issue number5
Early online date9 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2023


  • Dermatoglyph
  • Development
  • Digit
  • Fingerprint
  • Hair
  • Limb
  • Patterning
  • Signaling
  • Skin
  • Turing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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