Human eccrine sweat gland cells turn into melanin-uptaking keratinocytes in dermo-epidermal skin substitutes

J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Feb;133(2):316-24. doi: 10.1038/jid.2012.290. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Recently, Biedermann et al. (2010) have demonstrated that human eccrine sweat gland cells can develop a multilayered epidermis. The question still remains whether these cells can fulfill exclusive and very specific functional properties of epidermal keratinocytes, such as the incorporation of melanin, a feature absent in sweat gland cells. We added human melanocytes to eccrine sweat gland cells to let them develop into an epidermal analog in vivo. The interaction between melanocytes and sweat gland-derived keratinocytes was investigated. The following results were gained: (1) macroscopically, a pigmentation of the substitutes was seen 2-3 weeks after transplantation; (2) we confirmed the development of a multilayered, stratified epidermis with melanocytes distributed evenly throughout the basal layer; (3) melanocytic dendrites projected to suprabasal layers; and (4) melanin was observed to be integrated into former eccrine sweat gland cells. These skin substitutes were similar or equal to skin substitutes cultured from human epidermal keratinocytes. The only differences observed were a delay in pigmentation and less melanin uptake. These data suggest that eccrine sweat gland cells can form a functional epidermal melanin unit, thereby providing striking evidence that they can assume one of the most characteristic keratinocyte properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermis / cytology
  • Dermis / metabolism
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Melanocytes / cytology*
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Rats
  • Receptor, PAR-2 / metabolism
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology
  • Skin Transplantation / methods*
  • Skin, Artificial*
  • Sweat Glands / cytology*
  • Sweat Glands / metabolism
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Melanins
  • Receptor, PAR-2