Anisotropic properties of the enamel organic extracellular matrix

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Abstract

Enamel biosynthesis is initiated by the secretion, processing, and self-assembly of a complex mixture of proteins. This supramolecular ensemble controls the nucleation of the crystalline mineral phase. The detection of anisotropic properties by polarizing microscopy has been extensively used to detect macromolecular organizations in ordinary histological sections. The aim of this work was to study the birefringence of enamel organic matrix during the development of rat molar and incisor teeth. Incisor and molar teeth of rats were fixed in 2% paraformaldehyde/0.5% glutaraldehyde in 0.2 M phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), pH 7.2, and decalcified in 5% nitric acid/4% formaldehyde. After paraffin embedding, 5-μm-thick sections were obtained, treated with xylene, and hydrated. Form birefringence curves were obtained after measuring optical retardations in imbibing media, with different refractive indices. Our observations showed that enamel organic matrix of rat incisor and molar teeth is strongly birefringent, presenting an ordered supramolecular structure. The birefringence starts during the early secretion phase and disappears at the maturation phase. The analysis of enamel organic matrix birefringence may be used to detect the effects of genetic and environmental factors on the supramolecular orientation of enamel matrix and their effects on the structure of mature enamel.

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