Stable protein microcrystals called polyhedra are produced by certain insect viruses. Cytokines, such as fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), can be immobilized within polyhedra. Here, we investigated three-dimensional (3D) co-cultures of keratinocytes and melanocytes on collagen gel containing FGF-2 and FGF-7 polyhedra. Melanocytes were observed to reside at the base of the 3D cell culture and melanin was also typically observed in the lower layer. The 3D cell culture model with FGF-2 and FGF-7 polyhedra was a useful in vitro model of the epidermis due to effective melanogenesis, proliferation and differentiation of keratinocytes. FGF-7 polyhedra showed a potent cytoprotective effect when keratinocytes were treated with menadione, which is a generator of reactive oxygen species. The cytoprotective effect was activated by the inositol triphosphate kinase-Akt pathway leading to upregulation of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase and peroxiredoxin 6.
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