, Volume 208, Issue 9, pp 477-486

Association of developmental regulatory genes with the development of different molar tooth shapes in two species of rodents

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 While the evolutionary history of mammalian tooth shapes is well documented in the fossil record, the developmental basis of their tooth shape evolution is unknown. We investigated the expression patterns of eight developmental regulatory genes in two species of rodents with different molar morphologies (mouse, Mus musculus and sibling vole, Microtus rossiaemeridionalis). The genes Bmp-2, Bmp-4, Fgf-4 and Shh encode signal molecules, Lef-1, Msx-1 and Msx-2, are transcription factors and p21 CIP1/WAF1 participates in the regulation of cell cycle. These genes are all known to be associated with developmental regulation in mouse molars. In this paper we show that the antisense mRNA probes made from mouse cDNA cross-hybridized with vole tissue. The comparisons of gene expression patterns and morphologies suggest that similar molecular cascades are used in the early budding of tooth germs, in the initiation of tooth crown base formation, and in the initiation of each cusp’s development. Furthermore, the co-localization of several genes indicate that epithelial signalling centres function at the three stages of morphogenesis. The earliest signalling centre in the early budding epithelium has not been reported before, but the latter signalling centres, the primary and the secondary enamel knots, have been studied in mouse. The appearance of species-specific tooth shapes was manifested by the regulatory molecules expressed in the secondary enamel knots at the areas of future cusp tips, whilst the mesenchymal gene expression patterns had a buccal bias without similar species-specific associations.