Use of a serum-free epidermal culture model to show deleterious effects of epidermal growth factor on morphogenesis and differentiation

C. S J Chen, R. M. Lavker, U. Rodeck, B. Risse, P. J. Jensen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The presence of serum has limited the utility of many culture models for the study of cytokine effects because its complexity and variability can confound the interpretation of data. In the present study, a serum free skin co-culture model was used to investigate the effect of exogenous epidermal growth factor (EGF) on epidermal proliferation and differentiation. Human keratinocytes cultured on collagen rafts at the air-liquid interface produced a well-differentiated epithelium that resembled normal epidermis. Keratin filaments, membrane-coating granules, and keratohyalin granules were all observed. Epidermal differentiation markers keratin K1/K10, involucrin, and transglutaminase were localized in most of the suprabasal layers, whereas profilaggrin/filaggrin was confined to the granular layers and stratum corneum. In the continual presence of 10-20 ng/mL EGF, the epidermis was less organized, thinner, and less proliferative. EGF also depressed several indicators of differentiation: The number of keratohyalin granules and membrane-coating granules was greatly decreased; antigen expression of profilaggrin/filaggrin appeared diminished by immunocytochemical staining; frequent nuclear retention was noted in the relatively thickened stratum corneum-like layers. As detected by immunohistochemical staining, the expression of EGF receptor in the epidermis was reduced by exogenous EGF. These data illustrate that EGF cannot be considered a simple mitogen. Our findings also underscore the importance of using sophisticated culture models to assess complex cytokine effects that may be dependent on the architecture of a differentiating epidermis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995


  • Keratinocyte
  • Proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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