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Papers of the Week

Papers: 13 Jan 2024 - 19 Jan 2024

2024 Jan 16




Interaction of human keratinocytes and nerve fiber terminals at the neuro-cutaneous unit.


Erbacher C, Britz S, Dinkel P, Klein T, Sauer M, Stigloher C, Üçeyler N


Traditionally, peripheral sensory neurons are assumed as the exclusive transducers of external stimuli. Current research moves epidermal keratinocytes into focus as sensors and transmitters of nociceptive and non-nociceptive sensations, tightly interacting with intraepidermal nerve fibers at the neuro-cutaneous unit. In animal models, epidermal cells establish close contacts and ensheath sensory neurites. However, ultrastructural morphological and mechanistic data examining the human keratinocyte-nerve fiber interface are sparse. We investigated this exact interface in human skin applying super-resolution array tomography, expansion microscopy, and structured illumination microscopy. We show keratinocyte ensheathment of afferents and adjacent connexin 43 contacts in native skin and have applied a pipeline based on expansion microscopy to quantify these parameter in skin sections of healthy participants versus patients with small fiber neuropathy. We further derived a fully human co-culture system, visualizing ensheathment and connexin 43 plaques in vitro. Unraveling human intraepidermal nerve fiber ensheathment and potential interaction sites advances research at the neuro-cutaneous unit. These findings are crucial on the way to decipher the mechanisms of cutaneous nociception.