The cutaneous basement membrane zone, composed of numerous macromolecules, plays a multifunctional role in tissue regeneration and maintenance. To elucidate the cellular origin and dynamics of basement membrane formation, de novo synthesis, deposition, and ultrastructural assembly of its components were analyzed in organotypic cultures of adult skin keratinocytes on collagen gels with or without collagen-embedded dermal cells. Collagen IV and laminin-1 deposition occurred only in the presence of mesenchymal cells: patchy at day 4 and continuous after 1 week. Chain-specific mRNA expression started at day 2 in both keratinocytes and fibroblasts. It steadily increased up to day 10, however, with a reciprocal induction pattern, mRNA abundance shifting from keratinocytes to fibroblasts. On the other hand, laminin-5 staining was first observed at day 4, but in keratinocyte both mono- and cocultures. This was followed by nidogen, which was detected in cocultures but also in dermal monocultures. Laminin-5 protein persisted throughout day 21, whereas nidogen steadily increased in intensity. Expression kinetics revealed high levels of laminin-5 transcripts early and in keratinocytes only, whereas nidogen was expressed later and predominantly in fibroblasts. Although basement membrane protein deposition was continuous at day 14, the ultrastructural organization was still fragmentary, eventually normalizing at 3 weeks. These data demonstrate a dynamic interaction and cooperation of epithelial and mesenchymal skin cells in basement membrane formation. This interaction is supposedly mediated via diffusible factors. Our findings further extend the scope of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions stressing that both cell compartments are essential to constitute a tissue-specific extracellular matrix structure.