Foetal human melanocytes: In situ detection, in vitro culture and differentiation characteristics at 6-11 weeks EGA

I. Caroline Le Poole*, René M.J.G.J. Van Den Wijngaard, Ronald P. Verkruisen, Wout H. Lamers, Dirk Troost, Wiete Westerhof, Pranab K. Das

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In vivo, melanocytes were detected in epidermis from human tissue of 6.5 weeks estimated gestinational age (EGA) and older. We have successfully established melanocyte monocultures from tissue of 9 to 10 weeks EGA. To our knowledge, this is the first report on physiology of human foetal melanocytes in monoculture. In culture, such melanocytes retained foetal characteristics. Proliferation rates noted were markedly higher (approximately 2.7-fold) when compared to those in cultures of neonatal melanocytes. Moreover, when analyzing cellular phenotypes by markers for cells of the melanocytic lineage, foetal cells isolated from tissue of 9 weeks EGA reproducibly showed expression of the high molecular weight (HMW) antigen and c-kit to an extent intermediate to that found in neonatal melanocytes and M14 melanoma cells. Such differential expression was not observed if cells were isolated from tissue of 10 weeks EGA, indicating that the foetal environment provides essential differentiation stimuli during the 10th week of gestation. Moreover, these results are supportive of the theory that malignant transformation involves a process of dedifferentiation. In all, human foetal melanocyte culture provides a useful model to investigate pigment cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-133
Number of pages8
JournalPigment Cell Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1996


  • Dedifferentiation
  • Foetal pigment cells
  • Melanocyte development
  • Melanoma markers
  • Melanosomes
  • Proliferation in vitro

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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