2001 Pigment Cell Res 2001 Oct ;14 (5):348-55
Life Sciences Research, L'Oreal, Centre Charles Zviak, Clichy, France. [email protected]

Distinct melanogenic response of human melanocytes in mono-culture, in co-culture with keratinocytes and in reconstructed epidermis, to UV exposure

Striking differences are observed in the melanogenic response of normal human melanocytes to UVA and UVB irradiation depending on culture conditions and the presence of keratinocytes. Exposure of melanocytes co-cultured with keratinocytes to UVB irradiation triggered, already at low doses (5 mJ/cm2), an increase in melanin synthesis whereas in melanocyte mono-cultures, UVB doses up to 50 mJ/cm2 had no melanogenic effect. Unlike UVB, UVA exposure caused the same melanogenic response in both mono- and co-cultures. Removing certain keratinocyte growth factors from the co-culture medium abolished the melanogenic response to UVB, but not to UVA exposure. When integrated into the basal layer of a reconstructed human epidermis, human melanocytes similarly reacted to UVA and UVB irradiation as in vivo by increasing their production and transfer of melanin to the neighboring keratinocytes which resulted in a noticeable tanning of the reconstructed epidermis. The presence of a dense stratum corneum, known to scatter and absorb UV light, is responsible for higher minimal UVB and UVA doses required to trigger a melanogenic response in the reconstructed epidermis compared to keratinocyte-melanocyte co-cultures. Furthermore, an immediate tanning response was observed in the pigmented epidermis following UVA irradiation. From these results we conclude that: (i) keratinocytes play an important role in mediating UVB-induced pigmentation, (ii) UVA-induced pigmentation is the result of a rather direct effect on melanocytes and (iii) reconstructed pigmented epidermis is the most appropriate model to study UV-induced pigmentation in vitro.