2002 Pigment Cell Res 2002 Feb ;15 (1):49-56
University Section of Medicine, Division of Clinical Sciences, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, UK.

Fibroblasts play a regulatory role in the control of pigmentation in reconstructed human skin from skin types I and II

Human melanocytes in monolayer culture are extremely dependent on a wide range of soluble signals for their proliferation and melanogenesis. The advent of three-dimensional models of reconstructed skin allows one to ask questions of how these cells are regulated within a setting which more closely approximates normal skin. The purpose of this study was to investigate to what extent melanocytes within a reconstructed skin model are sensitive to regulation by dermal fibroblasts, basement membrane (BM) proteins and the addition of alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH). Sterilized acellular de-epidermized dermis (prepared to retain BM proteins or deliberately denuded of BM by enzymatic treatment) from skin type I or II was reconstituted with fibroblasts, melanocytes and keratinocytes. In all but one case (9/10), cell donors were skin type I or II. The presence of BM antigens was found to be necessary for positional orientation of the melanocytes; in the absence of BM, melanocytes moved into the upper keratinocyte layer pigmenting spontaneously. Addition of fibroblasts suppressed the extent of spontaneous pigmentation of melanocytes within this model. Neither alpha-MSH nor cholera toxin induced pigmentation in this model despite the fact that melanocytes clearly had the ability to synthesize pigment.