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J Mol Histol. 2013 Apr;44(2):175-81. doi: 10.1007/s10735-012-9472-5. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

Expression and localization of Nell-1 during murine molar development.

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  • 1Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Oral Biomedicine, School and Hospital of Stomatology, Shandong University, 44-1 Wenhuaxi Road, Jinan 250012, Shandong, People's Republic of China.


Nel-like molecule-1 (Nell-1) is a recently discovered secreted protein that plays an important role in osteoblast differentiation, bone formation, and bone regeneration. However, its expression and distribution during tooth development are largely unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression patterns of Nell-1 during murine molar development by immunohistochemistry. Nell-1 protein was expressed during molar development in embryonic and postnatal Kunming mice, but its expression levels and patterns at various developmental stages differed. At embryonic day 13.5 (E13.5) and E14.5, Nell-1 was found in both the entire enamel organ and the underlying mesenchyme. At E16.5, it was detected in the inner and outer enamel epithelia, stratum intermedium, secondary enamel knot, and dental papilla. At E18.5, Nell-1 was expressed in the differentiating ameloblasts, differentiating odontoblasts, and stratum intermedium. Positive staining was also found in the outer enamel epithelium. At postnatal day 2.5 (P2.5), P5, and P7, Nell-1 appeared in the secretory and mature ameloblasts and odontoblasts (odontoblastic bodies and processes) as well as immature enamel. Hertwig's epithelial root sheath also stained positively at P7. At P13.5, positive staining was restricted to the reduced dental epithelium and odontoblasts, whereas Nell-1 disappeared in the mature enamel. During tooth eruption, Nell-1 was observed only in the odontoblastic bodies, odontoblastic processes, and endothelial cells of blood vessels. The spatiotemporal expression patterns of Nell-1 during murine tooth development suggest that it might play an important role in ameloblast and odontoblast differentiation, secretion and mineralization of the extracellular enamel matrix, molar crown morphogenesis, as well as root formation.

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