Cell proliferation and apoptosis in enamelin null mice

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Enamelin is a secreted glycoprotein that is critical for dental enamel formation. Ameloblasts in enamelin (Enam) null mice develop atypical features that include the absence of a Tomes’ process, expanded endoplasmic reticulum, apparent loss of polarity, and pooling of extracellular matrix in all directions, including between ameloblasts and the stratum intermedium. We hypothesized that ameloblast pathological changes may be associated with increased cell apoptosis. Our objective was to assess apoptotic activity in maxillary first molars of wild-type, Enam+/−, and Enam−/− mice at postnatal days 5, 7, 9, 14, and 17. Mouse maxillae were characterized by light microscopy after terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated biotin–dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL) or 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) staining. Following the initial deposition of dentin matrix, ameloblasts became highly dysplastic and no enamel crystal ribbons were deposited. Ameloblast apoptosis was observed in the Enam null mice starting in the secretory stage and with no apparent alteration in cell proliferation. We conclude that in the absence of enamelin and subsequent shutdown of enamel formation, ameloblasts undergo pathological changes early in the secretory stage that are evident as radically altered cell morphology, detachment from the tooth surface, apoptosis, and formation of ectopic calcifications both outside and inside the dystrophic enamel organ.

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