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Development of hTERT-Immortalized Neonatal Melanocytes for Toxicity Studies and Melanogenesis Regulation

Orange and black fluoroscent, web-like melanocyte cells.

ACT 2022 Annual Meeting

Denver, Colorado, United States

November 14, 2022


Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin and they are involved in the process of epidermal pigmentation, which involves two main steps. First, melanocytes perform a variety of complex biochemical and physiological steps to produce, package, and exocytose melanin-containing melanosomes. Secondly, the melanosomes are taken up by neighboring keratinocytes where the stored melanin protects the underlying tissues from damaging UV radiation.  In additional to playing an integral role in skin pigmentation, the dysfunction of melanocytes is associated with skin disease and skin cancer.  Therefore, it is important to have a reliable model system to study melanocytes and associated processes. Primary cells offer one model system to study pigmentation and dermal agents that may disrupt the melanogenesis; however, they are limited by lifespan, and donor-to-donor variability. Here, we created an immortalized melanocyte cell model—hTERT neonatal melanocytes—by retroviral transduction of human telomerase (hTERT) into primary cells. In addition to enhanced longevity (up to 35 doublings), physiologic marker expression (tyrosinase positive, fibroblast marker negative), and ability to create melanosomes in 3D organotypic co-cultures, the cell line also showed expected levels of responses to several stimulators and inhibitors of melanogenesis. In summary, immortalized melanocytes provide a versatile in vitro cell model for the study of skin toxicology and melanogenesis regulation.

Download the poster to explore the use of hTERT-immortalized melanocytes as in vitro cell models for skin toxicology studies


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Diana Douglas, headshot.

Diana Douglas, BS

Senior Biologist, ATCC

Diana Douglas is a Senior Biologist at ATCC. For the last four years, she has focused her research on the development of advanced biological models via CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Previously, Ms. Douglas worked at the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Missouri, where her research focused on the mechanisms of necrotic cell death in heart disease. Ms. Douglas attended Truman State University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Steve Budd, headshot.

Steven Budd, MS, MBA

Product Specialist, ATCC

Steven Budd is a Product Specialist that manages the cell culture reagents at ATCC. He has 6 years of experience in the product management of scientific tools. Before that, he gained 4 years of experience in biomedical research and cell culture as a research specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mr. Budd has a M.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and an M.B.A. from North Carolina State University.

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