The hardest mammalian tissue, dental enamel is produced by ameloblasts, which are electrolyte-transporting epithelial cells. Although the end product is very different, they show many similarities to transporting epithelia of the pancreas, salivary glands and kidney.Enamel is produced in a multi-step epithelial secretory process that features biomineralization which is an interplay of secreted ameloblast specific proteins and the time-specific transport of minerals, protons and bicarbonate. First, "secretory" ameloblasts form the entire thickness of the enamel layer, but with low mineral content. Then they differentiate into "maturation" ameloblasts, which remove organic matrix from the enamel and in turn further build up hydroxyapatite crystals. The protons generated by hydroxyapatite formation need to be buffered, otherwise enamel will not attain full mineralization. Buffering requires a tight pH regulation and secretion of bicarbonate by ameloblasts. The whole process has been the focus of many immunohistochemical and gene knock-out studies, but, perhaps surprisingly, no functional data existed for mineral ion transport by ameloblasts. However, recent studies including ours provided a better insight for molecular mechanism of mineral formation. The secretory regulation is not completely known as yet, but its significance is crucial. Impairing regulation retards or prevents completion of enamel mineralization and results in the development of hypomineralized enamel that easily erodes after dental eruption. Factors that impair this function are fluoride and disruption of pH regulators.Revealing these factors may eventually lead to the treatment of enamel hypomineralization related to genetic or environmentally induced malformation.
- Dental enamel
- Vectorial epithelial transport
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism