Maksim Plikus

Picture of Maksim Plikus
Professor, Developmental & Cell Biology
School of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2007, Pathology
Phone: (949) 824-1260
University of California, Irvine
Stem Cell Research Center
845 Health Sciences Road, Room 3018
Mail Code: 1705
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Stem cells and stem cell niche, Regeneration of tissues and organs, Biological pattern formation, Self-organization, Biological clock mechamisms, Skin and hair follicles, Adipose tissue, WNT and BMP signaling pathways
Research Abstract
The interest of my laboratory is to understand how complex tissues and organs regenerate under normal conditions and in response to injury or disease.

Large organs, such as skin, contain many thousands of stem cells. Coordinating activities of all these stem cells at the same time becomes a big challenge. Previously we showed that this challenge can be solved by implementing a self-organizing pattern-based mechanism (Plikus et al., Nature 2008; Plikus et al., Science 2011; Wang et al., eLife 2017). We used the model of regenerating hairs to demonstrate that stem cells in each hair listen to activating and inhibitory signals emitted by the neighboring hairs. Upon integration of all signaling inputs, hair stem cells make a choice between activation or quiescence. This decision making process is identical for every hair and it can be described by a simple set of mathematical rules. Scaling of this elemental behavior across all hairs in the skin results in striking hair regeneration patterns visible to an eye. This pattern-based mechanism of stem cell activation is very efficient and highly adaptable to changes in the environment. Work in my laboratory aims at establishing cellular and molecular bases of self-organizing regenerative behavior in the skin. Considering that pattern formation is a universal process, we are looking for similar stem cell coordination strategies in other complex biological systems.

My laboratory is also interested to understand the natural limits of stem cell plasticity in response to injury. Our ongoing work using the model of wound healing shows that natural regenerative abilities of adult mammalian skin are far greater than previously thought. We show that adipose tissue can spontaneously regenerate in skin wounds, effectively transforming scars into nearly normal looking skin (Plikus et al., Science 2017; Guerrero-Juarez et al., Nature Communications 2019). We want to understand how lineage-restricted adult stem cells expand their developmental plasticity in response to wounding and how that enables them to replicate an embryonic event of adipose tissue regeneration. Current work in this direction aims to identify the mechanism of embryonic-like regeneration in adult mammalian tissues. We are also interested in developing new anti-scarring therapeutic strategies that will rely on reactivation of endogenous tissue stem cells and recapitulation of embryonic development.
Available Technologies
Awards and Honors
LEO Foundation award, Region Americas, 2019
American Association of Anatomists young investigator award, 2018
Pew Biomedical scholar, 2016
Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation grantee, 2013
Dermatology Foundation grantee, 2013
Selected publications. See a complete list at
Guerrero-Juarez CF, Dedhia PH, Jin S, Ruiz-Vega R, Ma D, Liu Y, Yamaga K, Shestova O, Gay DL, Yang Z, Kessenbrock K, Nie Q, Pear WS, Cotsarelis G#, Plikus MV# (2019). Single-cell analysis reveals fibroblast heterogeneity and myeloid-derived adipocyte progenitors in murine skin wounds. Nature Communications, s41467-018-08247-x
Sulli G, Rommel A, Wang X, Kolar MJ, Puca F, Saghatelian A, Plikus MV, Verma IM, Panda S (2018). Pharmacological activation of REV-ERBs is lethal in cancer and oncogene-induced senescence. Nature, 553: 351–355
Wang Q*, Oh JW*, Lee HL, Dhar A, Peng T, Ramos R, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Wang X, Zhao R, Cao X, Le J, Fuentes MA, Jocoy SC, Rossi AR, Vu B, Pham K, Wang X, Mali NM, Park JM, Choi JH, Lee H, Legrand J, Kandyba E, Kim JC, Kim M, Foley J, Yu Z, Kobielak K, Andersen B, Khosrotehrani K, Nie Q#, Plikus MV# (2017). A multi-scale model for hair follicles reveals heterogeneous domains driving rapid spatiotemporal hair growth patterning. eLife, eLife.22772
Plikus MV#, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Ito M, Li YR, Dedhia PH, Zheng Y, Shao M, Gay DL, Ramos R, Hsi TC, Oh JW, Wang X, Ramirez A, Konopelski SE, Elzein A, Wang A, Supapannachart RJ, Lee HL, Lim CH, Nace A, Guo A, Treffeisen E, Andl T, Ramirez RN, Murad R, Offermanns S, Metzger D, Chambon P, Widgerow AD, Tuan TL, Mortazavi A, Gupta RK, Hamilton BA, Millar SE, Seale P, Pear WS, Lazar MA, Cotsarelis G# (2017). Regeneration of fat cells from myofibroblasts during wound healing. Science , 355: 748-752
Chen CC, Wang L, Plikus MV, Jiang TX, Murray PJ, Ramos R, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Hughes MW, Lee OK, Shi S, Widelitz RB, Lander AD, Chuong CM (2015). Organ-Level Quorum Sensing Directs Regeneration in Hair Stem Cell Populations. Cell 161: 277–290
Zhang LJ, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Hata T, Bapat SP, Ramos R, Plikus MV, Gallo RL (2015). Dermal adipocytes protect against invasive Staphylococcus aureus skin infection. Science 347: 67-71
Plikus MV, Vollmers C, De la Cruz D, Chaix A, Ramos R, Panda S, Chuong CM (2013). Local circadian clock gates cell cycle progression of transient amplifying cells during regenerative hair cycling. PNAS 10: E2106–E2115
Gay D, Kwon O, Zhang Z, Spata M, Plikus MV, Holler PD, Ito M, Yang Z, Treffeisen E, Kim CD, Nace A, Zhang X, Baratono S, Wang F, Ornitz DM, Millar SE, Cotsarelis G (2013). Fgf9 from dermal gamma delta T cells induces hair follicle neogenesis after wounding. Nature Medicine 19: 916-923
Plikus MV, Baker RE, Chen CC, Fare C, de la Cruz D, Andl T, Maini PK, Millar SE, Widelitz R, Chuong CM (2011). Self-organizing and stochastic behaviors during the regeneration of hair stem cells. Science 332: 586-589
Plikus MV, Mayer JA, de la Cruz D, Baker RE, Maini PK, Maxson R, Chuong CM (2008). Cyclic dermal BMP signalling regulates stem cell activation during hair regeneration. Nature 451: 340-344
Professional Societies
American Society For Cell Biology
Society for Investigative Dermatology
North American Hair Research Society
Other Experience
Experimental Dermatology, Journal
Research Centers
Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center
Center for Complex Biological Systems
Center for Multiscale Cell Fate Research
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