The interfollicular dermis of adult human skin is partitioned into histologically and physiologically distinct papillary and reticular zones. Each of these zones contains a unique population of fibroblasts that differ in respect to their proliferation kinetics, rates at which they contract type I collagen gels, and in their relative production of decorin and versican. Here, site-matched papillary and reticular dermal fibroblasts couples were compared to determine whether each population interacted with keratinocytes in an equivalent or different manner. Papillary and reticular fibroblasts grown in monolayer culture differed significantly from each other in their release of keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) into culture medium. Some matched fibroblast couples also differed in their constitutive release of interleukin-6 (IL-6). Papillary fibroblasts produced a higher ratio of GM-CSF to KGF than did corresponding reticular fibroblasts. Interactions between site-matched papillary and reticular couples were also assayed in a three-dimensional culture system where fibroblasts and keratinocytes were randomly mixed, incorporated into type I collagen gels, and allowed to sort. Keratinocytes formed distinctive cellular masses in which the keratinocytes were organized such that the exterior most layer of cells exhibited characteristics of basal keratinocytes and the interior most cells exhibited characteristics of terminally differentiated keratinocytes. In the presence of papillary dermal fibroblasts, keratinocyte masses were highly symmetrical and cells expressed all levels of differentiation markers. In contrast, keratinocyte masses that formed in the presence of reticular fibroblasts tended to have irregular shapes, and terminal differentiation was suppressed. Furthermore, basement membrane formation was retarded in the presence of reticular cells. These studies indicate that site-matched papillary and reticular dermal fibroblasts qualitatively differ in their support of epidermal cells, with papillary cells interacting more effectively than corresponding reticular cells.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.