Long-term culture of murine epidermal keratinocytes

J Invest Dermatol. 1999 Jun;112(6):971-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.1999.00605.x.


The production of transgenic and null mice with skin abnormalities makes it increasingly important to establish cultures of mouse epidermal keratinocytes for in vitro studies. This requires that each cell line be derived from a single mouse and that the cells be carried for multiple passages. Freezing the cells would also be advantageous by allowing comparison of keratinocytes from several mouse lines at the same time. Mouse keratinocytes, however, have been exceedingly difficult to grow as primary cultures, and subculturing these cells has been virtually impossible until now. We describe a gentle dissociation method and a highly supplemented fibroblast conditioned medium that allows us to grow and subculture total mouse keratinocytes for up to 19 subcultures, allowing an increase in cell number of greater than 10 logs. Epidermal keratinocytes from newborn mice were grown on collagen IV coated dishes in murine fibroblast conditioned medium with 0.06 mM calcium and added growth factors. The cells could be passaged, frozen as viable stocks, and induced to differentiate. Morphologically the cultured keratinocytes demonstrated a pattern characteristic of basal cells. Stratified cultures which made mouse keratin 1 and profilaggrin through passage 10 were induced by purging the monolayer cultures of growth factors, then adding medium with 0.15 mM calcium; expression of mouse keratin 1 and profilaggrin was lost by passage 15. The methods explained in detail here should be of great interest to investigators who are now trying to analyze skin phenotypes and expression of markers of epidermal differentiation of their transgenic or knockout mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide / pharmacology
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Collagen
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / standards
  • Growth Substances
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Skin / cytology*


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Growth Substances
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Collagen