, Volume 293, Issue 4, pp 184-190

A modified ex vivo skin organ culture system for functional studies

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Abstract To investigate the immunological function of cells in normal and diseased skin under conditions approximating the in vivo situation, it is necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the tissue. To achieve this, freshly isolated skin has to be cultured ex vivo, or an in vitro-constructed complete skin equivalent may be used. Different skin organ culture systems have been described. Basically two systems prevail: submerged or air-exposed skin organ cultures. The former model has been used for measuring cytokine secretion by skin cells in the medium, and the latter to study the expression of cell membrane proteins in situ and the kinetics of epidermal Langerhans cells. Here we present a modified ex vivo skin organ culture system which approaches the in vivo situation by maintaining the normal skin architecture without spontaneous induction of the regenerative maturation markers. This method allowed the expression of cell membrane proteins in situ to be measured, and the cytokine secretion by skin cells in the culture medium to be quantitated in the same experiment. In this system, both general and specific stimuli (LPS and IL-1β) upregulated the expression of skin-derived cytokines IL-8 and IL-6 in the medium and different markers (ICAM-1, CD40 and CD86) on cells in the tissue in a 24-hour culture-formed. Elevation of both cytokine and cell marker expression could be blocked by dexamethasone and by IL-1ra which acts specifically on IL-1β-mediated responses. The system presented here is both quick and simple and can be used as a model to study the behaviour of skin cells in their natural microenvironment.

Received: 3 August 2000 / Revised: 2 December 2000 / Accepted: 5 February 2001