Calcium transport across the dental enamel epithelium

Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 2000;11(4):437-66. doi: 10.1177/10454411000110040401.


Dental enamel is the most highly calcified tissue in mammals, and its formation is an issue of fundamental biomedical importance. The enamel-forming cells must somehow supply calcium in bulk yet avoid the cytotoxic effects of excess calcium. Disrupted calcium transport could contribute to a variety of developmental defects in enamel, and the underlying cellular machinery is a potential target for drugs to improve enamel quality. The mechanisms used to transport calcium remain unclear despite much progress in our understanding of enamel formation. Here, current knowledge of how enamel cells handle calcium is reviewed in the context of findings from other epithelial calcium-transport systems. In the past, most attention has focused on approaches to boost the poor diffusion of calcium in cytosol. Recent biochemical findings led to an alternative proposal that calcium is routed through high-capacity stores associated with the endoplasmic reticulum. Research areas needing further attention and a working model are also discussed. Calcium-handling mechanisms in enamel cells are more generally relevant to the understanding of epithelial calcium transport, biomineralization, and calcium toxicity avoidance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ameloblasts / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • Dental Enamel / metabolism*
  • Dental Enamel Permeability
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Organelles / metabolism


  • Calcium Channels
  • Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • Calcium