Matrix metalloproteinase 20 promotes a smooth enamel surface, a strong dentino–enamel junction, and a decussating enamel rod pattern

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Mutations of the matrix metalloproteinase 20 (MMP20, enamelysin) gene cause autosomal-recessive amelogenesis imperfecta, and Mmp20 ablated mice also have malformed dental enamel. Here we showed that Mmp20 null mouse secretory-stage ameloblasts maintain a columnar shape and are present as a single layer of cells. However, the maturation-stage ameloblasts from null mouse cover extraneous nodules of ectopic calcified material formed at the enamel surface. Remarkably, nodule formation occurs in null mouse enamel when MMP20 is normally no longer expressed. The malformed enamel in Mmp20 null teeth was loosely attached to the dentin and the entire enamel layer tended to separate from the dentin, indicative of a faulty dentino–enamel junction (DEJ). The enamel rod pattern was also altered in Mmp20 null mice. Each enamel rod is formed by a single ameloblast and is a mineralized record of the migration path of the ameloblast that formed it. The enamel rods in Mmp20 null mice were grossly malformed or absent, indicating that the ameloblasts do not migrate properly when backing away from the DEJ. Thus, MMP20 is required for ameloblast cell movement necessary to form the decussating enamel rod patterns, for the prevention of ectopic mineral formation, and to maintain a functional DEJ.

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