In this study we compared human keratinocyte cultures grown at the air-liquid interface on de-epidermized dermis at 33°C or at 37°C in two different culture media: medium I - a fully defined serum- and EGF-free medium; and medium II - a serum- and EGF-containing medium. Cultures grown in medium II were initially hyperproliferative followed rapidly by senescence, and had a high triglyceride content. The hyperproliferation was ascribed to the presence of EGF in the medium. In contrast, cultures grown in medium I at 33°C showed a greatly improved balance between cell proliferation and differentiation. They had a prolonged lifespan of at least 32 days without a significant decrease in the number of living cell layers, a rate of proliferation similar to that of native epidermis and a low triglyceride content. Culturing at 37°C increased the rate of differentiation without affecting the rate of proliferation. Furthermore, both at 33°C and at 37°C, keratin 6 was expressed only in the first suprabasal layer but was expressed in all suprabasal layers in cultures grown in medium II. High keratin 6 expression was not directly linked to hyperproliferation but to deregulated terminal differentiation. Involucrin, transglutaminase and SPRR1 were abnormally expressed irrespective of the culture conditions used, whereas SKALP expression was decreased in cultures grown in medium I. The epidermal lipid profile was better in cultures grown in medium I; the relative amounts of ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol being comparable to native epidermis. Small-angle X-ray diffraction showed a slightly improved structural organization of stratum corneum lipids as demonstrated by the appearance of second- and third-order peaks of the 12-nm long phase and a marked reduction in the polycrystalline cholesterol peak.