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The developmental basis of fingerprint pattern formation and variation

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

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James D. Glover

Zoe R. Sudderick

Barbara Bo-Ju Shih

Cameron Batho-Samblas

Laura Charlton

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. Crichton

Denis J. Headon


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.


Glover, J. D., Sudderick, Z. R., Shih, B. B., Batho-Samblas, C., Charlton, L., Krause, A. L., …Headon, D. J. (2023). The developmental basis of fingerprint pattern formation and variation. Cell, 186(5), 940-956.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Feb 9, 2023
Publication Date 2023-03
Deposit Date Mar 13, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 13, 2023
Journal Cell
Print ISSN 0092-8674
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 186
Issue 5
Pages 940-956


Published Journal Article (20.1 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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