A Merkel cell‐neurite complex is a touch receptor composed of specialized epithelial cells named Merkel cells and peripheral sensory nerves in the skin. Merkel cells are found in touch‐sensitive skin components including whisker follicles. The nerve fibers that innervate Merkel cells of a whisker follicle extend from the maxillary branch of the trigeminal ganglion. Whiskers as a sensory organ attribute to the complicated architecture of the Merkel cell‐neurite complex, and therefore it is intriguing how the structure is formed. However, observing the dynamic process of the formation of a Merkel cell‐neurite complex in whiskers during embryonic development is still difficult. In this study, we tried to develop an organotypic co‐culture method of a whisker pad and a trigeminal ganglion explant to form the Merkel cell‐neurite complex in vitro. We initially developed two distinct culture methods of a single whisker row and a trigeminal ganglion explant, and then combined them. By dissecting and cultivating a single row from a whisker pad, the morphogenesis of whisker follicles could be observed under a microscope. After the co‐cultivation of the whisker row with a trigeminal ganglion explant, a Merkel cell‐neurite complex composed of Merkel cells, which were positive for both cytokeratin 8 and SOX2, Neurofilament‐H‐positive trigeminal nerve fibers and Schwann cells expressing Nestin, SOX2 and SOX10 was observed via immunohistochemical analyses. These results suggest that the process for the formation of a Merkel cell‐neurite complex can be observed under a microscope using our organotypic co‐culture method.
Development, Growth & Differentiation – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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