1999 Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand) 1999 Nov ;45 (7):969-80
L'Oreal, Life Sciences Research, Centre Charles Zviak, Clichy, France.

Keratinocyte-melanocyte co-cultures and pigmented reconstructed human epidermis: models to study modulation of melanogenesis

Normal human melanocytes were amplified and cultured in a new defined culture medium without phorbol esters or cholera toxin. The medium decreased considerably the doubling time and increased the possible passage number. Melanocytes were co-seeded with normal human keratinocytes into 24 well culture dishes to screen potentially active modulators of melanogenesis. For the assay, the co-cultures were exposed to the compounds under investigation in the presence of 14C-thiouracil and 3H-leucine. Control cultures contain L-tyrosine or kojic acid, modulators which served as internal calibration standards. Changes in the rate of melanin synthesis were measured on the basis of 14C-thiouracil incorporation into newly synthesized melanin. A reduction or increase in 3H-leucine incorporation was taken as an indication of cytotoxicity or induction of proliferation, respectively. The NHK-NHM co-culture screening assay provides a useful tool to compare the activity of known modulators of melanogenesis and to perform structure-activity studies with newly identified modulators to improve their activity. The efficacy of particularly interesting new compounds was further evaluated on reconstructed pigmented epidermis after repeated topical application. The same model was used to assess the anti-pigmenting effect of sunscreens on UV-induced pigmentation. Integration of melanocytes from different ethnic origin resulted in pigmented epidermis reflecting different skin phenotypes, Caucasian, Asian and African.