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Serial cultivation of chicken keratinocytes, a composite cell type that accumulates lipids and synthesizes a novel beta-keratin.

Vanhoutteghem A., Londero T., Ghinea N., Djian P.

The epidermis of birds differs from that of mammals by the presence of intracellular lipid droplets and the absence of sebaceous glands. We describe here the cultivation of chicken epidermal keratinocytes; these cells cannot be grown in medium supplemented with the usual fetal bovine serum even in the presence of supporting 3T3 cells, but they can grow from single cells in the presence of supporting 3T3 cells and 10% chicken serum. As revealed by their cell structure, their protein composition, and their gene expression, chicken keratinocytes possess the general properties of mammalian keratinocytes. They ultimately undergo in culture a process of terminal differentiation in which their nucleus is destroyed and a cornified envelope is formed. Chicken keratinocytes also show important properties that mammalian keratinocytes do not possess: they accumulate neutral lipids, usually in the form of a single perinuclear droplet; they accumulate carotenoids; they synthesize beta-keratins; and their multiplication requires a non-lipid factor, present in chicken serum but not in fetal calf serum. The lipid-synthesizing function of sebocytes in mammals is carried out by the keratinocytes themselves in birds. The availability of cultured chicken keratinocytes should allow studies that were hitherto impossible such as the tracing of the keratinocyte lineage during development of the chicken embryo and the investigation of the complete life cycle of viruses that require specific chicken keratinocyte products (such as Marek's disease virus).

Differentiation 72:123-137(2004) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]