• Cranial neural crest cell;
  • Odontoblast-like cell;
  • Dentin non-collagen protein;
  • Fibroblast growth factor 8;
  • Differentiation


During tooth development, cranial neural crest (CNC) cells represent a population of pluripotent stem cells that give rise to various dental tissues. This study aimed to investigate whether CNC cells could differentiate into odontoblast-like cells by in vitro induction. CNC cells were isolated from explants of cranial neural tubes and cultured in serum-free Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium (DMEM)/F12 medium which contained fibroblast growth factor 8 (FGF8) and dentin non-collagen proteins (DNCP). The initiation of controlled differentiation was determined using histological assays, and the expression of specific gene phenotypes was detected using immunocytochemical staining and reverse transcription—polymerase chain reaction (RT—PCR). The first branchial arch phenotype of the CNC cells demonstrated negative Hoxa2 expression and positive vimentin expression in the presence of 100 ng/ml FGF8. Following DNCP induction, the CNC cells became bipolar, demonstrated high alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, and formed mineralized nodules. In addition, the expression of DSPP, DMP1, and collagen type I confirmed the odontoblast phenotype. The results indicate that the tissue-specific cellular differentiation (odontoblast-like cells) of early-stage embryonic-derived cells (such as CNC cells) can be induced by adult extracellular matrix proteins (such as DNCP). CNC cells may be used as a valuable cell model for research on dental tissue differentiation and regeneration.