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J Dent Res. 2003 May;82(5):350-5.

Molar intercuspal dimensions: genetic input to phenotypic variation.

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  • 1Dental School, The University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia. grant.townsend@adelaide.edu.au


Molecular studies indicate that epigenetic events are important in determining how the internal enamel epithelium folds during odontogenesis. Since this process of folding leads to the subsequent arrangement of cusps on molar teeth, we hypothesized that intercuspal distances of human molar teeth would display greater phenotypic variation but lower heritabilities than overall crown diameters. Intercuspal distances and maximum crown diameters were recorded from digitized images of dental casts in 100 monozygotic and 74 dizygotic twin pairs. Intercuspal distances displayed less sexual dimorphism in mean values but greater relative variability and fluctuating asymmetry than overall crown measures. Correlations between intercuspal distances and overall crown measures were low. Models incorporating only environmental effects accounted for observed variation in several intercuspal measures. For those intercuspal variables displaying significant additive genetic variance, estimates of heritability ranged from 43 to 79%, whereas those for overall crown size were higher generally, ranging from 60 to 82%. Our finding of high phenotypic variation in intercuspal distances with only moderate genetic contribution is consistent with substantial epigenetic influence on the progressive folding of the internal enamel epithelium, following formation of the primary and secondary enamel knots.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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