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Keywords:

  • BDNF;
  • Ruffini ending;
  • development;
  • periodontal ligament;
  • mechanoreceptor

Abstract

The periodontal Ruffini ending has been reported to show immunoreactivity for tyrosine kinase B (trkB), the high-affinity receptor for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in the periodontal ligament of the rat incisor. Furthermore, adult heterozygous BDNF-mutant mice showed malformation and reduction of the periodontal Ruffini endings. To investigate further roles of BDNF in these structures, the development, distribution, and terminal morphology of Ruffini endings were examined in the incisor periodontal ligament of heterozygous and homozygous BDNF mutant mice, as well as in the wild-type littermate by immunohistochemistry for protein gene product (PGP) 9.5, a general neuronal marker. A similar distribution and terminal formation of PGP 9.5-immunoreactive nerve fibers was recognized in the periodontal ligament of all phenotypes at postnatal week (PW) 1. At this stage, the nerve fibers had a beaded appearance, but did not form the periodontal Ruffini endings. At PW2, the heterozygous and wild-type mice started to show ramified nerve fibers resembling the mature shape of periodontal Ruffini endings. At PW3, the Ruffini endings occurred in the periodontal ligament of the wild-type and heterozygous mice. While the Ruffini endings of the wild-type mice appeared either ruffled or smooth, as reported previously, most of these structures showed a smooth outline in the heterozygous mice. The homozygous mice lacked the typical Ruffini endings at PW3. In the quantitative analysis, homozygous mice had the smallest percentages of PGP 9.5-immunoreactive areas at the same postnatal periods, but there were no significant differences between wild-type and heterozygous mice during PW1–3. These findings suggest a possible involvement of BDNF during the postnatal development and, in particular, the maturation of periodontal Ruffini endings. Furthermore, other neurotrophins may play a role in the development and/or early maturation of the periodontal nerve fibers, as indicated by the presence of nerve fibers in the BDNF-homozygous mice. Anat Rec Part A 274A:807–816, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.