1988 J Lipid Res 1988 Jul ;29(7):949-961
Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Leiden, The Netherlands

Lipid composition of cultured human keratinocytes in relation to their differentiation

The present study was undertaken to explore the possibility of the use of cultured human keratinocytes for the study of changes in lipid composition in relation to epidermal differentiation. In a submerged culture system, in which the stratification is incomplete, no significant differences have been found between the lipid composition of cells grown either at low calcium concentration (0.06 mM) (at which the keratinocyte differentiation is markedly retarded) or at normal calcium concentration (1.6 mM) (at which some differentiation takes place). Under these conditions the amount of phospholipids and sterols was high and that of ceramides was low. Furthermore, the acylglucosylceramides (AGC) and acylceramides (AC), the latter one known to be involved in water barrier function, were found to be absent. Contrary to this, both AGC and AC were found to be present in significant amounts in an air-exposed model using de-epidermized dermis (DED) as a substrate (in which, as judged from morphologic criteria, the extent of keratinocyte stratification is similar to that seen under the in vivo conditions). Fatty acid analysis revealed significantly lower content of 18:2 and higher content of 16:1 and 18:1 acids with all culture conditions used, as compared to the parent epidermis. This is probably a result of fatty acid levels and composition in fetal calf serum (which was used in the present study) that differ markedly from the in vivo situation. The 20:4 content was similar to that in the epidermis only in cells cultured under the submerged conditions, during which they have been found (Isseroff et al. 1987. J. Lipid Res. 28: 1342-1349) to be able to convert 18:2 to 20:4. In DED cultures, however, the 20:4 content was markedly lower. Under all culture conditions used, the triglyceride content was higher as compared to the non-cultured epidermis. The high content of triglycerides and the fatty acid composition of the various lipid fractions showed a resemblance with what is found in the epidermis in essential fatty acid-deficient animals. This resemblance was confirmed by electron micrographs which revealed the presence of some partially or completely empty lamellar bodies. The results of the present study suggest that the air-exposed culture model, in which the keratinocytes show a high extent of stratification, could be of great value in the study of epidermal lipid metabolism. However, further alterations in culture conditions are necessary to more closely approximate the lipid composition of noncultured epidermis