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To investigate the mechanism of bone formation during tooth movement, in situ hybridization was performed with digoxigenin-labelled RNA probes to detect bone sialoprotein (BSP) and type I collagen mRNAs in the dentoalveolar tissue of 72 Sprague–Dawley rats. An elastic band was inserted between the first and second right maxillary molars, and the teeth experimentally moved for 1, 3, and 7 days. The left first maxillary molar was used as the control. For the untreated molars, osteoblasts and osteocytes near the distal surface of the interradicular septum (IRS) expressed a high level of both BSP and type I collagen mRNAs, while cells on the mesial side of the IRS showed a low level of these mRNAs. For the first molars subjected to experimental tooth movement, a high level of type I collagen mRNA expression was found in the osteoblasts on the tension side of the IRS after 1 day of experimental tooth movement. A high level of BSP mRNA was detected after 3 days of experimental tooth movement. However, a negligible amount of both mRNAs was found in cells on the compression side.These results support the hypothesis that BSP may be involved in mineralization during physiological bone remodelling. On application of orthodontic force, osteoblasts were activated and induced to express BSP mRNA, which is involved in bone remodelling due to orthodontic force. In addition, response to the orthodontic force was observed in osteocytes.