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Int J Dev Biol. 2004 Jun;48(4):307-17.

Terminal differentiation of palatal medial edge epithelial cells in vitro is not necessarily dependent on palatal shelf contact and midline epithelial seam formation.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan.


During fusion of the mammalian secondary palate, it has been suggested that palatal medial edge epithelial (MEE) cells disappear by means of apoptosis, epithelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) and epithelial cell migration. However, it is widely believed that MEE cells never differentiate unless palatal shelves make contact and the midline epithelial seam is formed. In order to clarify the potential of MEE cells to differentiate, we cultured single (unpaired) palatal shelves of ICR mouse fetuses by using suspension and static culture methods with two kinds of gas-mixtures. We thereby found that MEE cells can disappear throughout the medial edge even without contact and adhesion to the opposing MEE in suspension culture with 95% O2/5% CO2. Careful examination of MEE cell behavior in the culture revealed that apoptosis, EMT, and epithelial cell migration all occurred at various stages of MEE cell disappearance, including the transient formation and disappearance of epithelial triangles and islets. In contrast, MEE cells showed poor differentiation in static culture in a CO2 incubator. Furthermore, mouse and human amniotic fluids were found to prevent MEE cell differentiation in the cultured single palatal shelf, although paired palatal shelves fused successfully even in the presence of amniotic fluid. We therefore conclude that terminal differentiation of MEE cells is not necessarily dependent on palatal shelf contact and midline epithelial seam formation, but such MEE cell differentiation appears to be prevented in utero by amniotic fluid unless palatal shelves make close contact and the midline epithelial seam is formed.

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