An ex-vivo human skin model to study superficial fungal infections

Dora E. Corzo-Leon, Carol A. Munro, Donna M. MacCallum* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
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Human skin fungal infections (SFIs) affect 25% of the world’s population. Most of these infections are superficial. The main limitation of current animal models of human superficial SFIs is that clinical presentation is different between the different species and animal models do not accurately reflect the human skin environment. An ex vivo human skin model was therefore developed and standardised to accurately model SFIs. In this manuscript, we report our protocol for setting up ex vivo human skin infections and report results from a primary superficial skin infection with Trichophyton rubrum, an anthropophilic fungus. The protocol includes a detailed description of the methodology to prepare the skin explants, establish infection, avoid contamination, and obtain high quality samples for further downstream analyses. Scanning electronic microscopy (SEM), histology and fluorescent microscopy were applied to evaluate skin cell viability and fungal morphology. Furthermore, we describe a broad range of assays, such as RNA extraction and qRT-PCR for human gene expression, and protein extraction from tissue and supernatants for proteomic analysis by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Non-infected skin was viable after 14 days of incubation, expressed genes and contained proteins associated with proliferative, immune and differentiation functions. The macroscopic damage caused by T. rubrum had a similar appearance to the one expected in clinical settings. Finally, using this model, the host response to T. rubrum infection can be evaluated at different levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1172
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Early online date5 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This project was funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award for Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology 097377. We would like to acknowledge the support of the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Aberdeen (MR/N006364/1).

Thanks to Ms. Lucinda Wight in the Microscopy and Histology Facility at the Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom for training on the use of microscopes and the SEM processing. Thanks to Dr. David Stead in the Aberdeen Proteomics Facility, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom for the processing of protein samples.


  • ex-vivo skin model
  • Fungal infections
  • protocol
  • Trichophyton rubrum
  • dermatophyte
  • fungal infections
  • ex vivo skin model
  • Ex vivo skin model
  • Protocol
  • Dermatophyte


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