A team of researchers lead by Dr Thimios Mitsiadis at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, has identified a gene responsible for the formation of enamel, which is the key component of the teeth. The experiments were accomplished in mice carrying a deletion of the transcription factor Tbx1, a gene that plays a principal role in several human malformations (heart, thymus, parathyroid, face, and teeth) associated to the DiGeorge syndrome.
“Subjects afflicted by DiGeorge syndrome exhibit teeth with enamel defects. We have demonstrated that a direct link between impaired Tbx1 function and enamel defects exists. Enamel forms via the mineralization of specific enamel proteins that are secreted by dental epithelial cells called ameloblasts. Our results clearly show that teeth of Tbx1 null mice lacked enamel and ameloblasts,” explains Prof Mitsiadis.
These findings, just published in Development Biology, represent a major contribution to the understanding of the production of enamel, the “hardest organic tissue” found in nature.
An American group of researchers from the University of Oregon have also shown a relationship between another transcription factor (Ctip2) and the production of enamel, but in the words of Prof Mitsiadis “our investigations better demonstrate the lack of enamel in teeth. Because of the early lethality of the Tbx1 mutant mice, we have used long-term culture techniques that allow the unharmed growth of teeth until their full maturity. No such studies were performed from our American colleagues.”
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