Aims: To elucidate the possible mechanisms of how basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) influences epidermal homeostasis in a living skin equivalent (LSE) model. Methods: Several wound healing-related growth factors were analyzed at protein and mRNA levels for dermal fibroblasts of induced alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA)-positive or α-SMA-negative phenotypes. During culturing an LSE model by seeding normal human keratinocytes on a fibroblast-populated type I collagen gel, bFGF or neutralizing antibody for keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) was added to investigate its effects on fibroblast phenotypes and, subsequently, epidermal homeostasis by histology and immunohistochemistry. Results: The α-SMA-positive phenotype of fibroblasts induced by transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1) markedly suppressed the expression of KGF and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and slightly upregulated vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and TGF-β1 at mRNA and protein levels, compared with α-SMA-negative fibroblasts treated with bFGF. α-SMA expression of fibroblasts at the epidermal-mesenchymal junction of the LSEs was suppressed by the addition of bFGF, and a better-differentiated epidermis was presented. The abrogation of KGF from fibroblasts by the addition of the KGF neutralizing antibody disenabled the LSE culturing system to develop an epidermis. Conclusions: bFGF, through affecting the phenotypes and functions of fibroblasts, especially KGF expression, influenced epidermal homeostasis in an LSE model.

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