Inhibition of melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes by lectins and neoglycoproteins in an in vitro model system

Pigment Cell Res. 2001 Jun;14(3):185-94. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2001.140308.x.


We propose that some of the critical molecules involved in the transfer of melanosomes from melanocytes to keratinocytes include plasma membrane lectins and their glycoconjugates. To investigate this mechanism, co-cultures of human melanocytes and keratinocytes derived from neonatal foreskins were established. The process of melanosome transfer was assessed by two experimental procedures. The first involved labeling melanocyte cultures with the fluorochrome CFDA. Labeled melanocytes were subsequently co-cultured with keratinocytes, and the transfer of fluorochrome assessed visually by confocal microscopy and quantitatively by flow cytometry. The second investigative approach involved co-culturing melanocytes with keratinocytes, and processing the co-cultures after 3 days for electron microscopy to quantitate the numbers of melanosomes in keratinocytes. Results from these experimental approaches indicate significant transfer of dye or melanosomes from melanocytes to keratinocytes that increased with time of co-culturing. Using these model systems, we subsequently tested a battery of lectins and neoglycoproteins for their effect in melanosome transfer. Addition of these selected molecules to co-cultures inhibited transfer of fluorochrome by approximately 15-44% as assessed by flow cytometry, and of melanosomes by 67-93% as assessed by electron microscopy. Therefore, our results suggest the roles of selected lectins and glycoproteins in melanosome transfer to keratinocytes in the skin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Keratinocytes / ultrastructure
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Melanocytes / metabolism*
  • Melanocytes / ultrastructure
  • Melanosomes / metabolism*
  • Melanosomes / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pigmentation


  • Glycoproteins
  • Lectins