- WW domain–containing E3 Ubiquitin-protein ligase 2 (WWP2) has been found to positively regulate odontoblastic differentiation by monoubiquitinating the transcription factor Kruppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) in a cell culture system. However, the in vivo role of WWP2 in mouse teeth remains unknown. To explore this, here we generated Wwp2 knockout (Wwp2 KO) mice. We found that molars in Wwp2 KO mice exhibited thinner dentin, widened predentin, and reduced numbers of dentinal tubules. In addition, expression of the odontoblast differentiation markers Dspp and Dmp1 was decreased in the odontoblast layers of Wwp2 KO mice.
- Dental enamel, the hardest tissue in the human body, is derived from dental epithelial cell ameloblast-secreted enamel matrices. Enamel mineralization occurs in a strictly synchronized manner along with ameloblast maturation in association with ion transport and pH balance, and any disruption of these processes results in enamel hypomineralization. G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) function as transducers of external signals by activating associated G proteins and regulate cellular physiology.
- Dental enamel comprises interwoven arrays of extremely long and narrow crystals of carbonated hydroxyapatite called enamel rods. Amelogenin (AMELX) is the predominant extracellular enamel matrix protein and plays an essential role in enamel formation (amelogenesis). Previously, we have demonstrated that full-length AMELX forms higher-order supramolecular assemblies that regulate ordered mineralization in vitro, as observed in enamel rods. Phosphorylation of the sole AMELX phosphorylation site (Ser-16) in vitro greatly enhances its capacity to stabilize amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP), the first mineral phase formed in developing enamel, and prevents apatitic crystal formation.
- The development of ectodermal organs, such as teeth, requires epithelial–mesenchymal interactions. Basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factors regulate various aspects of tissue development, and we have previously identified a bHLH transcription factor, AmeloD, from a tooth germ cDNA library. Here, we provide both in vitro and in vivo evidence that AmeloD is important in tooth development. We created AmeloD-knockout (KO) mice to identify the in vivo functions of AmeloD that are critical for tooth morphogenesis.
- An important event in organogenesis is the formation of signaling centers, which are clusters of growth factor-secreting cells. In the case of tooth development, sequentially formed signaling centers known as the initiation knot (IK) and the enamel knot (EK) regulate morphogenesis. However, despite the importance of signaling centers, their origin, as well as the fate of the cells composing them, remain open questions. Here, using lineage tracing of distinct epithelial populations, we found that the EK of the mouse incisor is derived de novo from a group of SRY-box 2 (Sox2)-expressing cells in the posterior half of the tooth germ.
- Tooth enamel is mineralized through the differentiation of multiple dental epithelia including ameloblasts and the stratum intermedium (SI), and this differentiation is controlled by several signaling pathways. Previously, we demonstrated that the transcriptional coactivator Mediator 1 (MED1) plays a critical role in enamel formation. For instance, conditional ablation of Med1 in dental epithelia causes functional changes in incisor-specific dental epithelial stem cells, resulting in mineralization defects in the adult incisors.
- Twist1 is a basic helix-loop-helix-containing transcription factor that is expressed in the dental mesenchyme during the early stages of tooth development. To better delineate its roles in tooth development, we generated Twist1 conditional knockout embryos (Twist2Cre/+;Twist1fl/fl) by breeding Twist1 floxed mice (Twist1fl/fl) with Twist2-Cre recombinase knockin mice (Twist2Cre/+). The Twist2Cre/+;Twist1fl/fl embryos formed smaller tooth germs and abnormal cusps during early tooth morphogenesis. Molecular and histological analyses showed that the developing molars of the Twist2Cre/+;Twist1fl/fl embryos had reduced cell proliferation and expression of fibroblast growth factors 3, 4, 9, and 10 and FGF receptors 1 and 2 in the dental epithelium and mesenchyme.