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J Dent Res. 1997 Oct;76(10):1625-36.

The activin-binding protein follistatin is expressed in developing murine molar and induces odontoblast-like cell differentiation in vitro.

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Institut de Biologie Médicale, Université Louis Pasteur, Faculté de Médecine, INSERM U 424, Strasbourg, France.


It has recently been shown that mice deficient in activin-beta A subunits and follistatin exhibit major defects in dentition. To increase understanding of the roles played by these molecules during tooth development, we determined the temporospatial expression of activin-beta A subunit and follistatin messenger RNA and their corresponding proteins in developing murine molars (between day E 14 and 2 days after birth). The effects of recombinant human activin A and its binding protein follistatin on odontoblast differentiation were also studied in cultures of dental papillae (DP) isolated from the mandibular first molars of E-17-day mice. In situ hybridization indicated that transcripts for activin-beta A subunit were abundant in pre-odontoblasts at the tips of forming cusps prior to odontoblast terminal differentiation, and transcripts for follistatin in overlying inner enamel epithelial cells (pre-ameloblasts). Pre-odontoblasts were also weakly immunoreactive in relation to activin-beta A subunit, pre-ameloblasts in relation to follistatin. When follistatin was added at different concentrations to a DP culture model (2-14 nmol/DP) together with heparin at constant concentration, differentiation of odontoblast-like cells was induced, as evidenced by polarization and deposition of extracellular matrix in vitro, to extents depending on the follistatin concentration. In contrast, the addition of activin A (2 nmol/DP) had no effect on the differentiation parameters studied. These findings suggest that the activin-follistatin system regulates odontoblast differentiation during tooth development. In particular, we suggest that binding of endogenous activin A by follistatin may allow odontoblast terminal differentiation to occur.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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