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Development of heterodont dentition in house shrew (Suncus murinus)


Atsushi Yamanaka, Department of Oral Anatomy, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Kagoshima University, 8-35-1 Sakuragaoka, Kagoshima 890-8544, Japan
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Mammalian heterodont dentition comprises incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Although there has been intensive research, the patterning of these specific tooth types has not yet been elucidated. In order for the gene expression data to be linked with tooth type determination, it is first necessary to determine precisely the incisor-, canine-, premolar-, and molar-forming regions in the jaw primordia. To accomplish this, we studied dentition development in the house shrew (Suncus murinus), which has retained all the tooth types, using three-dimensional reconstructions from serial histological sections and the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) expression patterns. Before the appearance of morphological signs of odontogenesis, Shh expression localized to the presumptive tooth-forming regions, in which the mesial and distal expression domains corresponded to the incisor- and premolar-forming regions, respectively. The upper incisor region was found to extend across the boundary between the frontonasal and the maxillary processes. The canine-forming regions later appeared in the intermediate portions of the maxillary and the mandibular processes. The molar-forming regions later appeared distal to the initially demarcated tooth-forming regions by secondary extension of the distal ends. The demarcation visualized by the Shh expression pattern in the jaw primordia of the house shrew probably represents the basic developmental pattern of mammalian heterodont dentition.