• Melanocyte;
  • Xenograft technique;
  • Cell culture;
  • Dermis;
  • Pigmentation

Epidermal reconstructs incorporating pigment cells have been used in vitro over the last decade to study the physiology of the epidermal melanin unit. However, the major limitation of this technology is the duration of the assays, which need to be completed within 2–3 weeks to obviate the problem of epidermal senescence and excessive terminal differentiation. This becomes a major problem for studying long-term biological phenomena in photoprotection and epidermal skin cancers. We report here a simplified surgical technique in immunotolerant mice allowing long-term studies. The creation of a vascularized mouse skin flap is the key point of the surgical procedure. Long-term pigmentation of the xenografts seemed macroscopically successful, but surprisingly microscopy at 11 and 16 weeks postgrafting showed mostly dermal pigment aggregates and rare Melan-A positive dermal and epidermal pigment cells. In the same reconstructs maintained in vitro, dermal pigment and dermal pigment cells were never noted. It could be speculated that in our model, the colonization of the xenografted dead human dermis by murine cells influences melanocyte survival.