Laminin α2 is subunit of laminin-2 (α2β1γ1), which is a major component of the muscle basement membrane. Although the laminin α2 chain is expressed in the early stage of dental mesenchyme development and localized in the tooth germ basement membrane, its expression pattern in the late stage of tooth germ development and molecular roles are not clearly understood. We analyzed the role of laminin α2 in tooth development by using targeted mice with a disrupted lama2 gene. Laminin α2 is expressed in dental mesenchymal cells, especially in odontoblasts and during the maturation stage of ameloblasts, but not in the pre-secretory or secretory stages of ameloblasts. Lama2 mutant mice have thin dentin and a widely opened dentinal tube, as compared with wild-type and heterozygote mice, which is similar to the phenotype of dentinogenesis imperfecta. During dentin formation, the expression of dentin sialoprotein, a marker of odontoblast differentiation, was found to be decreased in odontoblasts from mutant mice. Furthermore, in primary cultures of dental mesenchymal cells, dentin matrix protein, and dentin sialophosphoprotein, mRNA expression was increased in laminin-2 coated dishes but not in those coated with other matrices, fibronectin, or type I collagen. Our results suggest that laminin α2 is essential for odontoblast differentiation and regulates the expression of dentin matrix proteins.
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