Tissue-specific basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors play an important role in cellular differentiation. We recently identified AmeloD as a tooth-specific bHLH transcription factor. However, the role of AmeloD in cellular differentiation has not been investigated. The aim of this study was to elucidate the role of AmeloD in dental epithelial cell differentiation. We found that AmeloD-knockout (AmeloD-KO) mice developed an abnormal structure and altered ion composition of enamel in molars, suggesting that AmeloD-KO mice developed enamel hypoplasia. In molars of AmeloD-KO mice, the transcription factor Sox21 encoding SRY-Box transcription factor 21 and ameloblast differentiation marker genes were significantly downregulated. Furthermore, overexpression of AmeloD in the dental epithelial cell line M3H1 upregulated Sox21 and ameloblast differentiation marker genes, indicating that AmeloD is critical for ameloblast differentiation. Our study demonstrated that AmeloD is an important transcription factor in amelogenesis for promoting ameloblast differentiation. This study provides new insights into the mechanisms of amelogenesis.
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