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Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2012 Dec;18(12):947-57. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2011.0676. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

Human skin model containing melanocytes: essential role of keratinocyte growth factor for constitutive pigmentation-functional response to α-melanocyte stimulating hormone and forskolin.

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L'Oréal Research & Innovation, Clichy, France.


To study human skin pigmentation in a physiological in vitro model, we developed a pigmented reconstructed skin reproducing the three-dimensional architecture of the melanocyte environment and the interactions of melanocyte with its cellular partners, keratinocytes, and fibroblasts. Co-seeding melanocytes and keratinocytes onto a fibroblast-populated collagen matrix led to a correct integration of melanocytes within the epidermal basal layer, but melanocytes remained amelanotic even after supplementation with promelanogenic factors. Interestingly, normalization of keratinocyte differentiation using keratinocyte growth factor instead of epidermal growth factor finally allowed an active pigmentary system to develop, as shown by the expression of key melanogenic markers, the production, and transfer of melanosome-containing melanin into keratinocytes. Various degrees of constitutive pigmentation were reproduced using melanocytes from different skin phenotypes. Furthermore, induction of pigmentation was achieved by treatment with known propigmenting molecules, αMSH and forskolin, thus demonstrating the functionality of the pigmentary system. This pigmented full-thickness skin model therefore represents a highly relevant tool to study the role of cell-cell, cell-matrix, and mesenchymal-epithelial interactions in the control of skin pigmentation.

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