The HOX genes are expressed, in vivo, in human tooth germs: In vitro cAMP exposure of dental pulp cells results in parallel HOX network activation and neuronal differentiation

Vincenzo D'Antò, Monica Cantile, Maria D'Armiento, Giulia Schiavo, Gianrico Spagnuolo, Luigi Terracciano, Raffaela Vecchione, Clemente Cillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Homeobox-containing genes play a crucial role in odontogenesis. After the detection of Dlx and Msx genes in overlapping domains along maxillary and mandibular processes, a homeobox odontogenic code has been proposed to explain the interaction between different homeobox genes during dental lamina patterning. No role has so far been assigned to the Hox gene network in the homeobox odontogenic code due to studies on specific Hox genes and evolutionary considerations. Despite its involvement in early patterning during embryonal development, the HOX gene network, the most repeat-poor regions of the human genome, controls the phenotype identity of adult eukaryotic cells. Here, according to our results, the HOX gene network appears to be active in human tooth germs between 18 and 24 weeks of development. The immunohistochemical localization of specific HOX proteins mostly concerns the epithelial tooth germ compartment. Furthermore, only a few genes of the network are active in embryonal retromolar tissues, as well as in ectomesenchymal dental pulp cells (DPC) grown in vitro from adult human molar. Exposure of DPCs to cAMP induces the expression of from three to nine total HOX genes of the network in parallel with phenotype modifications with traits of neuronal differentiation. Our observations suggest that: (i) by combining its component genes, the HOX gene network determines the phenotype identity of epithelial and ectomesenchymal cells interacting in the generation of human tooth germ; (ii) cAMP treatment activates the HOX network and induces, in parallel, a neuronal-like phenotype in human primary ectomesenchymal dental pulp cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-848
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Volume97
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2006

Keywords

  • HOX network
  • Neuronal differentiation
  • Tooth germs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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