The dermal papilla (DP) plays pivotal roles in hair follicle morphogenesis and cycling. However, our understanding of the biology of the canine DP is extremely limited. The aim of this study was to elucidate molecular biological and immunohistochemical characteristics of canine DP cells and determine appropriate conditions for in vitro expansion. Histological investigation revealed that the canine DP expressed biomarkers of human and rodent DP, including alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and versican. When microdissected, canine DP, but not fibroblasts, strongly expressed the DP-related genes for alkaline phosphatase, Wnt inhibitory factor1 and lymphoid enhancer-binding factor1, confirming successful isolation. The growth rate of isolated canine DP cells was moderate in conventional culture conditions for rodent and human DP; however, AmnioMAX-C100 complete medium allowed more efficient cultivation. Dermal papilla marker gene expression was maintained in early passage cultured DP cells, but gradually lost after the third passage. Approaches to mimic the in vivo DP environment in culture, such as supplementation of keratinocyte-conditioned medium or use of extracellular matrix-coated dishes, moderately ameliorated loss of DP gene expression in canine DP cells. It is possible that constituent factors in AmnioMAX may influence culture. These findings suggested that further refinements of culture conditions may enable DP cell expansion without impairing intrinsic properties and, importantly, demonstrated that AmnioMAX-cultured early passage canine DP cells partly maintained the biological characteristics of in vivo canine DP cells. This study provides crucial information necessary for further optimization of culture conditions of canine DP.
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