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Dev Biol. 2004 Oct 1;274(1):139-57.

Fgf signaling is required for zebrafish tooth development.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0334, USA.


We have investigated fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling during the development of the zebrafish pharyngeal dentition with the goal of uncovering novel roles for FGFs in tooth development as well as phylogenetic and topographic diversity in the tooth developmental pathway. We found that the tooth-related expression of several zebrafish genes is similar to that of their mouse orthologs, including both epithelial and mesenchymal markers. Additionally, significant differences in gene expression between zebrafish and mouse teeth are indicated by the apparent lack of fgf8 and pax9 expression in zebrafish tooth germs. FGF receptor inhibition with SU5402 at 32 h blocked dental epithelial morphogenesis and tooth mineralization. While the pharyngeal epithelium remained intact as judged by normal pitx2 expression, not only was the mesenchymal expression of lhx6 and lhx7 eliminated as expected from mouse studies, but the epithelial expression of dlx2a, dlx2b, fgf3, and fgf4 was as well. This latter result provides novel evidence that the dental epithelium is a target of FGF signaling. However, the failure of SU5402 to block localized expression of pitx2 suggests that the earliest steps of tooth initiation are FGF-independent. Investigations of specific FGF ligands with morpholino antisense oligonucleotides revealed only a mild tooth shape phenotype following fgf4 knockdown, while fgf8 inhibition revealed only a subtle down-regulation of dental dlx2b expression with no apparent effect on tooth morphology. Our results suggest redundant FGF signals target the dental epithelium and together are required for dental morphogenesis. Further work will be required to elucidate the nature of these signals, particularly with respect to their origins and whether they act through the mesenchyme.

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