• Odontoclasts;
  • Differentiation;
  • Tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP);
  • Ultrastructure;
  • Cytochemistry;
  • Deciduous teeth;
  • Shedding;
  • Human



In human deciduous teeth, odontoclastic resorption takes place at the pulpal surface of the coronal dentine prior to shedding, and this resorption shows clear time-related histological changes (Sahara et al., 1992).


Using this phenomenon as an observation system, we examined the cytodifferentiation of human odontoclasts by light and electron microscopy. For a histochemical marker of odontoclast differentiation and function, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) activity was determined by light and electron microscopic enzyme histochemistry.


As root resorption neared completion, TRAP-positive mononuclear cells were initially detected in the pulp chamber. They had abundant mitochondria, small lysosomes, and moderately developed rough endoplasmic reticulum throughout their cytoplasm. In these mononuclear cells, TRAP activity was localized in compartments of the biosynthetic pathway, i.e., in cisternae of the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi lamellae, as well as small lysosomes. The TRAP-positive mononuclear cells first made contact with the predentine surface by their elongated cellular processes. After attachment, they spread out along the predentine surface and developed specialized membrane structures, clear zones, and ruffled borders. Next, they fused with each other on the predentine surface and formed typical multinucleate odontoclasts. After termination of their resorption function, the odontoclasts lost their ruffled borders and became detached from the resorbed surface. Most of the detached odontoclasts had numerous large pale vacuoles and secondary lysosomes and appeared to be in the process of degeneration.


The present study demonstrates that: (1) odontoclasts differentiated from TRAP-positive mononuclear cells, which presumably originate from circulating progenitor cells, (2) membrane specialization of odontoclasts, i.e., development of a clear zone and ruffled border, is induced following their contact with the resorption surface, (3) multinucleation of odontoclasts takes place only after their attachment to the resorption surface, (4) mature multinucleate odontoclasts can resorb predentine as well as dentine in the same way as osteoclasts resorb bone, and (5) at the end of the resorption, odontoclasts gradually lose their ruffled borders and become detached from the resorbed surface. © 1996 Wiley-Liss, Inc.