Mouse Genetic Background Influences the Dental Phenotype

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Dental enamel covers the crown of the vertebrate tooth and is considered to be the hardest tissue in the body. Enamel develops during secretion of an extracellular matrix by ameloblast cells in the tooth germ, prior to eruption of the tooth into the oral cavity. Secreted enamel proteins direct mineralization patterns during the maturation stage of amelogenesis as the tooth prepares to erupt. The amelogenins are the most abundant enamel proteins and are required for normal enamel development. Phenotypic differences were observed between incisors from individual Amelx (amelogenin) null mice that had a mixed 129xC57BL/6J genetic background and between inbred wild-type (WT) mice with different genetic backgrounds (C57BL/6J, C3H/HeJ, FVB/NJ). We hypothesized that this could be due to modifier genes, as human patients with a mutation in an enamel protein gene causing the enamel defect amelogenesis imperfecta (AI) can also have varied appearance of dentitions within a kindred. Enamel density measurements varied for all WT inbred strains midway during incisor development. Enamel thickness varied between some WT strains, and, unexpectedly, dentin density varied extensively between incisors and molars of all WT and Amelx null strains studied. WTFVB/NJ incisors were more similar to those of Amelx null mice than to those of the other WT strains in terms of incisor height/width ratio and pattern of enamel mineralization. Strain-specific differences led to the conclusion that modifier genes may be implicated in determining both normal development and severity of enamel appearance in AI mouse models and may in future studies be related to phenotypic heterogeneity within human AI kindreds reported in the literature.

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