Generation of melanocytes from induced pluripotent stem cells

Ruifeng Yang, Min Jiang, Suresh M. Kumar, Theodore Xu, Fei Wang, Leihong Xiang, Xiaowei Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epidermal melanocytes have an important role in protecting skin from UV rays, and are implicated in a variety of skin diseases. Here, we developed an efficient method for differentiating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into melanocytes. We first generated iPSCs from adult mouse tail-tip fibroblasts (TTFs) using retroviral vectors or virus-free piggyBac transposon vectors carrying murine Sox2, Oct3/4, c-Myc, and Klf4. The TTF-derived iPSC clones exhibited similar morphology and growth properties as mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. The iPSCs expressed ES cell markers, displayed characteristic epigenetic changes, and formed teratomas with all three germ layers. The iPSCs were used to generate embryonic bodies and were then successfully differentiated into melanocytes by treatment with growth factors. The iPSC-derived melanocytes expressed characteristic melanocyte markers and produced melanin pigment. Electron microscopy showed that the melanocytes contained mature melanosomes. We manipulated the conditions used to differentiate iPSCs to melanocytes and discovered that Wnt3a is not required for mouse melanocyte differentiation. This report shows that melanocytes can be readily generated from iPSCs, providing a powerful resource for the in vitro study of melanocyte developmental biology and diseases. By inducing iPSCs without viruses, the possibility of integration mutagenesis is alleviated, and these iPSCs are more compatible for cell replacement therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2458-2466
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology

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