We investigated the effect of oxygen tension on the proliferation and hair-inductive capacity of human dermal papilla cells (DPCs) and dermal sheath cells (DSCs). DPCs and DSCs were separately obtained from human hair follicles and each cultured under atmospheric/hyperoxic (20% O2), physiological/normoxic (6% O2), or hypoxic (1% O2) conditions. Proliferation of DPCs and DSCs was highest under normoxia. Compared with hyperoxia, hypoxia inhibited proliferation of DPCs, but enhanced that of DSCs. In DPCs, hypoxia downregulated the expression of hair-inductive capacity-related genes, including BMP4, LEF1, SOX2, and VCAN. In DSCs, both normoxia and hypoxia upregulated SOX2 expression, whereas hypoxia downregulated BMP4 expression. Microarray analysis revealed that normoxia increased the expression of pluripotency-related genes, including SPRY, NR0B1, MSX2, IFITM1, and DAZL, compared with hyperoxia. In an in vivo hair follicle reconstitution assay, cultured DPCs and DSCs were transplanted with newborn mouse epidermal keratinocytes into nude mice using a chamber method. In this experiment, normoxia resulted in the most efficient induction of DPC hair follicles, whereas hypoxia caused the most efficient induction and maturation of DSC hair follicles. These results suggest that application of physiological/hypoxic oxygen tension to cultured human DSCs enhances proliferation and maintenance of hair inductivity for skin engineering and clinical applications. Impact statement Dermal sheath cells (DSCs) and dermal papilla cells (DPCs) are useful cell sources for cell-based regenerative therapy. This is the first report to describe that low-oxygen conditions are better for DSCs. Normoxic and hypoxic culture of DSCs is beneficial for expanding these hair follicular cells and advancing development of cell-based therapy for both wound healing and hair regeneration. The current study supports that optimized oxygen tension can be applied to use expanded human DPCs and DSCs for skin engineering and clinical applications.
Keywords: cell culture; dermal papilla cells; dermal sheath cells; follicular stem cells; oxygen; tissue regeneration.