Isolation and short-term culture of primary keratinocytes, hair follicle populations and dermal cells from newborn mice and keratinocytes from adult mice for in vitro analysis and for grafting to immunodeficient mice

Nat Protoc. 2008;3(5):799-810. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.50.


Protocols for preparing and culturing primary keratinocytes from newborn and adult mouse epidermis have evolved over the past 35 years. This protocol is now routinely applied to mice of various genetic backgrounds for in vitro studies of signaling pathways in differentiation and cell transformation, and for assessing the in vivo phenotype of altered keratinocytes in grafts of cells on immunodeficient mice. Crucial in the development and application of the procedure was the observation that keratinocytes proliferate in media of low calcium concentration, but rapidly commit to differentiation at calcium concentrations >0.07 mM after the initial attachment period. Preparing primary keratinocytes from ten newborn mice requires 2-3 h of hands-on time. Related procedures are also provided: preparing immature hair follicle buds, developing dermal hair follicles and fibroblasts from newborn mice, preparing primary keratinocytes from adult mice and grafting cell mixtures on athymic nude mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Dermis / cytology*
  • Hair Follicle / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Tissue Transplantation / methods*


  • Calcium