Calcified Tissue International

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 259–268 | Cite as

Human amelogenesis I: High resolution electron microscopy study of ribbon-like crystals

  • F. J. G. Cuisinier
  • P. Steuer
  • B. Senger
  • J. C. Voegel
  • R. M. Frank
Clinical Investigations


Ribbon-like crystals, from developing enamel of human fetuses, were studied by high resolution electron microscopy. These crystals were classically described as the first organized mineral formed during amelogenesis. They were characterized by a mean width-to-thickness ratio (W.T-1) of 9.5, and 40% were bent. On lattice images we noted the presence of the central dark line (CDL) associated with white spots. Both structures were found in crystals with a minimum thickness of 8–10 nm. CDLs were localized in the center of the crystals and seemed to be linked to the initial growth process, but their exact structure and function were not fully determined. We were able to study the structure of the ribbon-like crystals with a Scherzer resolution close to 0.2 nm. The good correspondence between experimental and computed images showed that their structure was related to hydroxyapatite (HA). In addition, the presence of ionic substitutions and deficiencies were also compatible with HA. In this study, about 50% of the crystals showed structural defects. Screw dislocations were the most often noted defects and were observed within crystals aligned along five different zone axes. Low- and high-angle boundaries were also detected. Low-angle boundaries, found in the center of the crystals, could thus be related to CDLs and be implicated in the nucleation step of crystal formation, whereas high-angle boundaries could result from the fusion of ribbon-like crystals. Such mechanisms could induce an acceleration of the growth in thickness of the crystal observed during the maturation stage of amelogenesis.

Key words

Human enamel Development Hydroxyapatite Structural defects High resolution electron microscopy 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. J. G. Cuisinier
    • 1
  • P. Steuer
    • 1
  • B. Senger
    • 1
  • J. C. Voegel
    • 1
  • R. M. Frank
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre de Recherches OdontologiquesUniversité Louis Pasteur; INSERM U157StrasbourgFrance

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