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Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 2001;12(5):414-24.

Effect of mechanical loading on periodontal cells.

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Department of Orthodontics, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 78284-7910, USA.


Mechanical loading is an important regulatory factor in alveolar bone homeostasis, and plays an essential role in maintaining the structure and mass of the alveolar processes throughout lifetime. A better understanding of the cellular and molecular responses of periodontal cells is a prerequisite for further improvements of therapeutic approaches in orthodontics, periodontal and alveolar bone repair and regeneration, implantology, and post-surgical wound healing. The purpose of this review is to provide an insight into some cell culture and animal models used for studying the effects of mechanical loading on periodontal cells, and into the recent developments and utilization of new in vivo animal models. There has been an increased awareness about the need for improvement and development of in vivo models to supplement the widely used cell culture models, and for biological validation of in vitro results, especially in the light of evidence that developmental models may not always reflect bone homeostasis in an adult organism. Due to the limitations of in vivo models, previous studies on mechanical regulation of alveolar bone osteoblasts and cementoblasts mostly focused on proliferative responses, rather than on the stimulation of cell differentiation. To address this problem, we have recently characterized and implemented a mouse osteoinductive tooth movement model for studying mechanically induced regulation of osteoblast- and cementoblast-associated genes. In this model, a defined and reproducible mechanical osteogenic loading is applied during a time course of up to two weeks. Regulation of gene expression in either wild-type or transgenic animals is assessed by a relative quantitative measurement of the level of target mRNAs directly within the subpopulations of periodontal cells. To date, results demonstrate a defined temporal pattern of cell-specific gene regulation in periodontal osteoblasts mechanically stimulated to differentiate and deposit bone matrix. The responses of osteoblast-associated genes to mechanical loading were 10- to 20-fold greater than the increase in the numbers of these cells, indicating that the induction of differentiation and an increase of cell function are the primary responses to osteogenic loading. The progression of the osteoblast phenotype in the intact mouse periodontium was several-fold faster compared with that in cultured cells, suggesting that the mechanical signal may be targeting osteoblast precursors in the state of readiness to respond to an environmental challenge, without the initial proliferative response. An early response of alkaline phosphatase and bone sialoprotein genes was detected after 24 hrs of treatment, followed by a concomitant stimulation of osteocalcin and collagen I between 24 and 48 hrs, and deposition of osteoid after 72 hrs. Although cementoblasts constitutively express biochemical markers similar to those of osteoblasts, distinct responses of osteocalcin, collagen I, and bone sialoprotein genes to mechanical loading were observed in the two cell phenotypes. This finding indicates that differential genetic responses to mechanical loading provide functional markers for distinction of the cementoblast and osteoblast phenotypes.

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