The innervation of human teeth and gingival epithelium as revealed by means of an antiserum for protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5)



The innervation of human teeth and oral mucosa has been studied in the past by different methods, none of which offered a clear description of the precise morphology of nerve fibers and terminals and of nerve organization as a whole. Recently, interesting findings have been obtained by means of immunohistochemical investigations for neurofilaments and S-100 proteins. A new brain-specific molecule, protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5), has been used for the first time in the present research to investigate the distribution of nerves in human oral mucosa and decalcified teeth, about which there is a paucity of information. The data provided in this study, confirming previous work in other species, may be of value for understanding the anatomy of human oral innervation. In the oral mucosa, the antiserum labels nerve fibers, corpuscles, and neuroendocrine (Merkel) cells. In sections of decalcified teeth, numerous PGP 9.5 positive fibers are demonstrated in the pulp and in the inner 100 μm of dentin. The novel nerve tissue protein used, PGP 9.5, thus appears to be a reliable marker for studies of nerve fibers in human tissues and not to be affected by decalcification procedures. It could then be used for investigations on the innervation of normal and pathological calcified human tissues.