In vitro and post-transplantation differentiation of human keratinocytes grown on the human type IV collagen film of a bilayered dermal substitute

Exp Cell Res. 1991 Apr;193(2):310-9. doi: 10.1016/0014-4827(91)90102-z.


Using human type IV and type I + III collagens and a new, nontoxic cross-linking procedure, we have developed a cell-free bilayered human dermal substitute for organotypic culture and transplantation of human skin keratinocytes. We have studied the formation of the basement membrane, and the differentiation of keratinocytes grown on the type IV collagen layer of this dermal substitute, in vitro and after grafting onto nude mice. These studies demonstrated the formation of essential constituents of the basement membrane in culture: hemidesmosomes and deposition of extracellular matrix on the top of the type IV collagen were observed as early as 6 days after plating of human keratinocytes. Although the keratinocytes formed a well-organized multilayered epithelium, they exhibited limited differentiation when grown submerged in liquid medium. However, the multilayered sheet obtained after 14 days in submerged culture was composed of a regular basal cell layer, several nucleated suprabasal cell layers containing granular cells, and several dense, anucleated cell layers. The grafting experiments have shown a good biocompatibility of the dermal substitute. It is repopulated by fibroblasts, newly synthesized collagen, vessels, and a few mononuclear cells. At Day 14 after grafting, the type IV collagen layer was still present and very dense, and the basement membrane appeared as in culture, with numerous well-structured hemidesmosomes and deposition of extracellular matrix resembling lamina densa. At Day 55 after transplantation, even if the epidermal graft did not exhibit all the characteristics of the normal epidermis in vivo, it was very close to it. At this stage, the basement membrane was complete, with structures clearly indicative of anchoring fibrils. This new dermal substitute offers many advantages. It is stable and easy to handle. Its production is standardized. The oxidation induced by periodic acid led to a nontoxic cross-linked matrix. This dermal substitute is the first one entirely composed of human collagens. The type I + III collagen underlayer is reorganized when grafted. It supports a type IV collagen top layer which offers an excellent substrate for keratinocytes, favors their anchorage, and favors the formation of the basement membrane in vitro. This dermal substitute could be useful for wound coverage or as an in vitro model for toxicological and pharmacological studies.

MeSH terms

  • Basement Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Collagen / physiology*
  • Desmosomes / ultrastructure
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / transplantation
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • beta 2-Microglobulin / metabolism


  • Gels
  • beta 2-Microglobulin
  • Collagen