Inhibition of keratinocyte growth in cell culture and whole skin culture by mast cell mediators

Maria Huttunen, M. Hyttinen, G. Nilsson, J. H. Butterfield, M. Horsmanheimo, I. T. Harvima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Mast cells are suggested to participate in regenerative processes, but their influence on epithelialization and wound healing has not been well studied. Since mast cells can be found in contact with epidermis in chronic inflammatory skin diseases and venous ulcers, the effect of mast cells on keratinocyte growth was studied. Keratinocytes were cultured in serum-free conditions with (complete medium) or without (basal medium) epidermal growth factor (EGF) and bovine pituitary extract (BPE) to reach subconfluence in a 24-well plate, and the cells were treated with different mast cell mediators histamine, heparin and tryptase, or lysate from HMC-1 cells, a human leukemic mast cell line. Whole skin cultures were used as a model for in vitro wounds to study the effect of mast cells on epithelial outgrowth from skin specimens. Histamine inhibited 3H-thymidine incorporation of keratinocytes dose-dependently by 29% at 1 mM, and 89% at 5 mM histamine. In whole skin culture, histamine inhibited epithelial outgrowth dose-dependently by 64% already at 0.1 mM histamine and maximally (91%) at 1 mM histamine. Heparin inhibited 3H-thymidine incorporation dose-dependently by up to 33% at 2 μg/ml in the absence, but not in the presence, of EGF/BPE. In contrast, in whole skin culture, heparin first inhibited the epithelial outgrowth by up to 27% at 2 μg/ml, but then reversed the inhibition to 30% stimulation at 200 μg/ml. Skin tryptase (0.0285 to 2.85 μg/ml) with or without heparin (0.5 to 20 μg/ml) did not affect thymidine incorporation in keratinocytes. Lysate from HMC-1 cells, but not that from control, neuroblastoma cells, inhibited 3H-thymidine incorporation in keratinocytes dose-dependently, and maximal (47%) inhibition was reached with 16,700 lysed HMC-1 cells/ml. In whole skin culture, HMC-1 lysate inhibited the epithelial outgrowth by up to 36% at 67,000 lysed cells/ml. The results show that mast cells and their mediators are inhibitory to keratinocyte 3H-thymidine incorporation and epithelial outgrowth in vitro, although, the inhibitory effect of histamine was seen at high concentrations suggesting a requirement for close morphologic vicinity of mast cells to keratinocytes. Thus, mast cells are assumed to control epidermal regeneration and to impair epithelialization of chronic ulcers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-192
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Dermatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Epithelialization
  • Heparin
  • Histamine
  • Keratinocyte
  • Mast cell
  • Skin culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology


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