Evolution and development of the mammalian dentition: Insights from the marsupial Monodelphis domestica



To understand developmental mechanisms of evolutionary change, we must first know how different morphologies form. The vast majority of our knowledge on the developmental genetics of tooth formation derives from studies in mice, which have relatively derived mammalian dentitions. The marsupial Monodelphis domestica has a more plesiomorphic heterodont dentition with incisors, canines, premolars, and molars on both the upper and the lower jaws, and a deciduous premolar. The complexity of the M. domestica dentition ranges from simple, unicusped incisors to conical, sharp canines to multicusped molars. We examine the development of the teeth in M. domestica, with a specific focus on the enamel knot, a signaling center in the embryonic tooth that controls shape. We show that the tooth germs of M. domestica express fibroblast growth factor (FGF) genes and Sprouty genes in a manner similar to wild-type mouse molar germs, but with a few key differences. Developmental Dynamics, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.