Melanosome capping of keratinocytes in pigmented reconstructed epidermis - Effect of ultraviolet radiation and 3-isobutyl-1-methyl-xanthine on melanogenesis

Susan Gibbs, Seema Murli, Gerrit De Boer, A. A.T. Mulder, A. Mieke Mommaas, Maria Ponec

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72 Citations (Scopus)


Reconstructed pigmented epidermis was established by coseeding autologous melanocytes and keratinocytes onto a dermal substrate and culturing for up to 6 weeks at the air-liquid interface. Inspection of the tissue architecture revealed that melanocytes are regularly interspersed only in the basal layer and transfer melanosomes to the keratinocytes. We report for the first time, the in vitro formation of supranuclear melanin caps above the keratinocyte nuclei. The formation and abundance of these melanin caps could be enhanced by pigment modifiers such as ultraviolet light and 3 -isobutyl-1-methyl-xanthine (IBMX). In untreated cultures, the capping was observed in the spinous layers after 6 weeks of culture, whereas after irradiation or supplementation of the culture medium with IBMX, the capping occurred already in the basal layer 2 weeks after initiation of the stimulus. In this study, we show that IBMX and ultraviolet irradiation stimulate pigmentation via different mechanisms. After supplementation of the culture medium with IBMX the increase in pigmentation was entirely due to the increase in melanocyte activity as observed by increased dendrite formation, melanin production and transport to the keratinocytes and was not due to an increase in melanocyte proliferation. In contrast, after UV irradiation, the increase in pigmentation was also accompanied with an increase in melanocyte proliferation as well as an increase in melanocyte activity. In conclusion, we describe the establishment of pigmented reconstructed epidermis with autologous keratinocytes and melanocytes that can be kept in culture for a period of at least 6 weeks. The complete program of melanogenesis occurs: Melanosome synthesis, melanosome transport to keratinocytes, supranuclear capping of keratinocyte nuclei and tanning of the epidermis. This enables sustained application of pigment stimulators over a prolonged period of time and also repeated application of pigment stimulators to be studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-466
Number of pages9
JournalPigment Cell Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2000


  • Autologous
  • Co-culture
  • Keratinocyte
  • Melanocyte

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