Mitsiadis TA, Luder HU. Genetic basis for tooth malformations: from mice to men and back again.
Teeth arise from sequential and reciprocal interactions between the oral epithelium and the cranial neural crest-derived mesenchyme. Their formation involves a precisely orchestrated series of molecular and morphogenetic events. Numerous regulatory genes that have been primarily found in organisms such as Drosophila, zebrafish, xenopus and mouse are associated with all stages of tooth formation (patterning, morphogenesis, cytodifferentiation and mineralization). Most of these genes belong to evolutionary conserved signaling pathways that regulate communication between epithelium and mesenchyme during embryonic development. These signaling molecules together with specific transcription factors constitute a unique molecular imprint for odontogenesis and contribute to the generation of teeth with various and function-specific shapes. Mutations in several genes involved in tooth formation cause developmental absence and/or defects of teeth in mice. In humans, the odontogenic molecular program is not as well known as that of mice. However, some insight can be obtained from the study of mutations in regulatory genes, which lead to tooth agenesis and/or the formation of defective dental tissues.