Derivation of melanocytes from embryonic stem cells in culture

Dev Dyn. 1999 Dec;216(4-5):450-8. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0177(199912)216:4/5<450::AID-DVDY13>3.0.CO;2-0.


We report that embryonic stem (ES) cells were efficiently induced to differentiate to melanocytes in vitro. When undifferentiated ES cells were cocultured with a bone marrow-derived stromal cell line, a very small but significant number of melanocytes were reproducibly generated. This process was greatly enhanced by addition of dexamethasone to the culture and strictly depended on steel factor, the ligand for the c-Kit receptor tyrosine kinase. Expression of c-Kit on the precursor cells was confirmed by using SCL/tal-1-/- ES cells, which are defective for producing hematopoietic cells, which were thus ruled out as possible sources of nonmelanogenic c-Kit-expressing cells. The morphology, reactivity to growth factors, and expression of melanogenic markers of the cells generated all indicated unequivocally that these cells were melanocytes. This culture system may provide a potent tool for the study of development and function of melanocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / deficiency
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Endothelin-3 / pharmacology*
  • Genotype
  • Kidney
  • Melanocytes / cytology*
  • Melanocytes / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics*
  • Stem Cell Factor / deficiency
  • Stem Cell Factor / pharmacology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stromal Cells / cytology
  • T-Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Protein 1
  • Transcription Factors*


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Endothelin-3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Stem Cell Factor
  • T-Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Protein 1
  • Tal1 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • Dexamethasone
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit