Embryonic mouse tooth germs were cultured in vitro in the presence of two related amelogenin isoforms to determine their effects on tooth development. Our results show that these individual proteins have specific but quite different effects on epithelial-derived ameloblasts versus mesenchymal-derived odontoblasts.
Introduction: Amelogenins, the main protein components of enamel matrix, have been shown to have signaling activity. Amelogenin isoforms differing only by the presence or exclusion of exon 4, designated ‘A+4’ (composed of exons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6d, and 7) and ‘A-4’ (composed of exons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6d, and 7) and ‘A-4’ (composed of exons 2, 3, 5, 6d, and 7), showed similar, but different, effects both in vitro and in vivo on postnatal teeth.
Materials and Methods: Lower first molar tooth germs of E15/16 CD1 mice were microdissected and cultured in vitro in a semisolid media containing either 20% FBS, 2% FBS, or 2% FBS with either 1.5 nM ‘A+4’, ‘A-4’, or both for 6 days. Tooth germs were analyzed by H&E staining and immunohistochemistry for collagen I, dentin matrix protein 2, and DAPI nuclear staining.
Results: Teeth cultured in media containing 20% FBS showed normal development with polarized ameloblasts, and odontoblasts producing dentin matrix, and DMP2 expression in odontoblasts and pre-ameloblasts. Culture in 2% FBS media resulted in no ameloblast polarization and modest odontoblast differentiation with scant dentin matrix. Tooth germs cultured with ‘A+4’ in 2% FBS media had well-polarized odontoblasts with robust dentin production and concomitant ameloblast polarization. DMP2 expression was equal to or greater than seen in the 20% FBS culture condition. In cultures with ‘A-4’ in 2% FBS media, odontoblast polarization and dentin production was reduced compared with ‘A+4’. However, the pre-ameloblast layer was disorganized, with no ameloblast polarization occurring along the dentin surface. DMP2 expression was reduced in the odontoblasts compared with the 20% FBS and ‘A+4’ conditions and was almost completely abrogated in the pre-ameloblasts.
Conclusion: These data show different signaling activities of these closely related amelogenin isoforms on tooth development. Here we make the novel observation that ‘A−4’ has an inhibitory effect on ameloblast development, whereas ‘A+4’ strongly stimulates odontoblast development. We show for the first time that specific amelogenin isoforms have effects on embryonic tooth development in vitro and also hypothesize that DMP2 may play a role in the terminal differentiation of both ameloblasts and odontoblasts.