Fibroblasts facilitate re-epithelialization in wounded human skin equivalents

Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri, Paul Hensbergen, Sue Gibbs, Johanna Kempenaar, Roel Van Der Schors, Maria Ponec

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The re-epithelialization of the wound involves the migration of keratinocytes from the edges of the wound. During this process, keratinocyte migration and proliferation will depend on the interaction of keratinocytes with dermal fibroblasts and the extracellular matrix. The present study aimed to investigate (1) the role of fibroblasts in the re-epithelialization process and on the reconstitution of the dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ) and (2) differential protein expression during re-epithelialization. For both purposes, three-dimensional human skin equivalents (HSE) were used. A full-thickness wound in HSE was introduced by freezing with liquid nitrogen and a superficial wound by linear incision with a scalpel. The closure of the wound in the absence or presence of exogenous growth factors was followed by monitoring the rate of re-epithelialization and regeneration of the DEJ. The results obtained in this study demonstrate that fibroblasts facilitate wound closure, but they differentially affected the deposition of various basement membrane components. The deposition of laminin 5 at the DEJ was delayed in superficial wounds as compared to the full-thickness wounds. During freeze injury, some basement membrane (BM) components remain associated with the dermal compartment and probably facilitate the BM reconstitution. The re-epithelialization process in full-thickness but not in superficial wounds was accelerated by the presence of keratinocyte growth factor and especially by epidermal growth factor. In addition, we have examined the deposition of various basement membrane components and the differences in protein expression in a laterally expanding epidermis in uninjured HSE. Laminin 5, type IV and VII collagen deposition was decreased in the laterally expanding epidermis, indicating that the presence of these proteins is not required for keratinocyte migration to occur in vitro. Using two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, we have identified DJ-1, a protein not earlier reported to be differently expressed during the epithelialization process of the skin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-112
Number of pages11
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • 2D-PAGE
  • DJ-1
  • Dermal fibroblasts
  • Keratinocytes
  • Laminin 5
  • Re-epithelialization

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