Dental Enamel: Its Evolution, Development, and Genetics
Our understanding of dental enamel formation has rapidly advanced through evolutionary analyses, identifying dozens of genes critical for human enamel formation, and characterizing wild-type and targeted knockout mice to define when these genes are expressed and how their absence derails amelogenesis. Evolutionary studies increasingly suggest that scales and teeth are innovations spawned during an apparent arms race between predators and prey. Dental enamel first evolved on scales before 450 million years ago and in tandem with the expansion of a large family of new genes called secretory calcium binding phosphoproteins (SCPPs). Scales evolved into odontodes, which are dermal teeth on the external surfaces near internal openings, which subsequently moved onto the jaws. The fundamental advance in the evolution of enamel was development of a membrane system that initiates thin mineral ribbons on the surface of mineralized collagen and orients the ribbons along the path of the retreating membrane extending them. This mechanism is completely dependent upon the secreted SCPP proteins enamelin (ENAM) and ameloblastin (AMBN), but the process cannot be long sustained without the contributions of many genes. Understanding this process is the key to understanding amelogenesis. Reiteration of the daily elongation of enamel mineral ribbons ultimately establishes the shape of the enamel crown covering dentin, but the enamel layer must be hardened by a subsequent maturation process, that itself has become better understood through recent advances.
Open to the University public, Dental CE credit available.
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