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Developmental Biology

Establishing a High Throughput Epidermal Spheroid Culture System to Model Keratinocyte Stem Cell Plasticity

Published: January 30th, 2021



1Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, 2Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 3Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine Baltimore, 4Department of Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 5Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 6Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina

Here we describe a protocol for the systematic cultivation of epidermal spheroids in 3D suspension culture. This protocol has wide-ranging applications for use in a variety of epithelial tissue types and for the modeling of several human diseases and conditions.

Epithelial dysregulation is a node for a variety of human conditions and ailments, including chronic wounding, inflammation, and over 80% of all human cancers. As a lining tissue, the skin epithelium is often subject to injury and has evolutionarily adapted by acquiring the cellular plasticity necessary to repair damaged tissue. Over the years, several efforts have been made to study epithelial plasticity using in vitro and ex vivo cell-based models. However, these efforts have been limited in their capacity to recapitulate the various phases of epithelial cell plasticity. We describe here a protocol for generating 3D epidermal spheroids and epidermal spheroid-derived cells from primary neonatal human keratinocytes. This protocol outlines the capacity of epidermal spheroid cultures to functionally model distinct stages of keratinocyte generative plasticity and demonstrates that epidermal spheroid re-plating can enrich heterogenous normal human keratinocytes (NHKc) cultures for integrinα6hi/EGFRlo keratinocyte subpopulations with enhanced stem-like characteristics. Our report describes the development and maintenance of a high throughput system for the study of skin keratinocyte plasticity and epidermal regeneration.

The mammalian stratified epithelium is the most complex epithelial architecture in all living systems and is most often subject to damage and injury. As a protective tissue, stratified epithelium has evolved to generate a complex and effective tissue damage response. Upon injury, these cells must activate lineage plasticity programs, which enable them to migrate to the injured site and carry out repair1,2,3. This multifaceted response occurs in several sequential steps which remain poorly understood.

A major obstacle in studying the intricate proce....

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The protocol for the collection and handling of skin specimens and isolation of human keratinocytes has been reviewed by the University of South Carolina (UofSC) IRB and classified as "research not involving human subjects", as the foreskin specimens were surgical discards produced during routine surgical procedures (circumcision of neonate boys) and were completely devoid of identifying information. The protocol was also reviewed and approved by the UofSC Biosafety Committee on a regular basis, and all laborator.......

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During the skin epidermosphere assay, NHKc cultures are seeded in agarose-coated wells of a 96-well plate (Figure 1A). Spheroid-forming cells should self-aggregate within 48h. Autonomous spheroid formation can be assessed as early as 24 h using a standard inverted phase-contrast microscope. skin epidermosphere formation and re-plating assay model various phases of epidermal tissue regeneration (Figure 1B). Figure 2 shows high resolu.......

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The use of 3D spheroid culture systems has had broad utility in assessing cell stemness. These systems have been demonstrated to enhance enrichment of tissue stem cells13, yet their utility for the study of human epidermal stem cells has been limitedly explored. Here, we describe a strategy for enriching human keratinocyte stem cells using 3D culture techniques. In this system, NHKc are cultivated as self-assembling multicellular spheroid suspensions, comprised of several keratinocyte subtypes sus.......

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The UofSC School of Medicine Instrumentation Resource Facility (IRF) provided access to imaging and cell sorting equipment and technical assistance. This work was supported in part by grant 1R21CA201853. The MCF and the IRF receive partial support from NIH grant P20GM103499, SC INBRE. The MCF also receives support from NIH grant P20GM109091. Yvon Woappi was supported in part by NIH grants 2R25GM066526-06A1 (PREP) and R25GM076277 (IMSD), and by a Fellowship by the Grace Jordan McFadden Professors Program at UofSC. Geraldine Ezeka and Justin Vercellino were supported by NIH grants 2R25GM066526-10A1 (PREP) at UofSC. Sean M. Bloos was supported by the 2016 Magellan Schola....

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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Affymetrix platform Affymetrix For microarray experiments
Affymetrix’s HuGene-2_0-st library file Affymetrix Process
Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer Agilent For microarray experiments
All Prep DNA/RNA Mini Kit Qiagen 80204 Used for RNA isolation
Analysis Console Software version analyze cell type specific transcriptional responses using one-way between-subject analysis of variance
BD FACSAria II flow cytometer Beckman For flow cytometry
Console Software version console Software Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific For confirming data quality
Cytokeratin 14 Santa Cruz Biotechnology sc-53253 1:200 dilution
Dispase Sigma-Aldrich D4818 For cell media
FITC-conjugated anti-integrinα6 Abcam ab30496 For FACS analysis
GeneChip Command Console 4.0 software Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific For confirming data quality
GeneChip Fluidics Stations 450 (Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific) Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific For washing and staining of hybridized arrays
GeneChip HuGene 2.0 ST Arrays Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific For hybridization and amplifycation of total RNA
GeneChip Hybridization Oven 640 Thermo Fisher Scientific For hybridization and amplifycation of total RNA | Amplify labeled samples
GeneChip Hybridization Wash, and Stain Kit (Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific). Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific For washing and staining of hybridized arrays
GeneChip Scanner 3000 7G system Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific Scanning hybridized arrays
GeneChip WT PLUS Reagent Kit Affymetrix/Thermo Fisher Scientific For amplifycation of biotinylating total RNA
Human Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (hFGF basic/FGF2) Cell Signaling Technology 8910 For cell media
Human Epidermal Growth Factor (hEGF) Cell Signaling Technology 8916 For cell media
Human Insulin Millipore Sigma 9011-M For cell media
iQ SYBR Green Supermix (Bio-Rad) Bio-Rad 1708880 Used for RT-qPCR
iScript cDNA Synthesis Kit Bio-Rad 1708890 Used for RT-qPCR
KSFM ThermoFisher Scientific 17005041 Supplemented with 1% Penicillin/Streptomycin, 20 ng/ml EGF, 10 ng/ml
basic fibroblast growth factor, 0.4% bovine serum albumin (BSA), and 4 µg/ml insulin
KSFM-scm ThermoFisher Scientific 17005042 Supplemented with 1% Penicillin/Streptomycin, 20 ng/ml EGF, 10 ng/ml
basic fibroblast growth factor, 0.4% bovine serum albumin (BSA), and 4 µg/ml insulin
MCDB 153-LB basal medium Sigma-Aldrich M7403 MCDB 153-LB basal media w/ HEPES buffer
NEST Scientific 1-Well Cell Culture Chamber Slide, BLACK Walls on Glass Slide, 6/PK, 12/CS Stellar Scientific NST230111 For immunostaining
P63 Thermo Scientific 703809 1:200 dilution
PE-conjugated anti-EGFR ( San Jose, CA; catalog number ) BD Pharmingen 555997 For FACS analysis
pMSCV-IRES-EGFP plasmid vector Addgene 20672 For transfection
Promega TransFast kit Promega E2431 For transfection
Qiagen RNeasy Plus Micro Kit Qiagen For microarray experiments
Thermo Scientific™ Sterile Single Use Vacuum Filter Units Thermo Scientific 09-740-63D For cell media
Zeiss Axionvert 135 fluorescence microscope Zeiss Use with Axiovision Rel. 4.5 software

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