Localization of activated caspase-3-positive and apoptotic cells in the developing tooth germ of the mouse lower first molar

Histochem J. 2001 May;33(5):253-8. doi: 10.1023/a:1017900305661.


This study examined the immunohistochemical detection of activated caspase-3, and its association with apoptosis, during tooth morphogenesis of the mouse lower first molar. The distribution of cells positive for caspase-3 closely corresponded with the localization of the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine-5'-triphosphate-biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL)-positive apoptotic cells through the developmental course of tooth germs from embryo day 12 (E12) to E19, thus showing that the apoptosis occurring in the developing odontogenic tissue was induced by the activation of the caspase family. The specific distribution pattern of apoptotic cells in the developing odontogenic epithelial tissue from the initiation (E12) of tooth germ to the completion of tooth crown morphology (E19) also suggests that apoptotic events are related not only to a deletion of functionally suspended cells, but also participate in initiation and the completion of tooth morphogenesis. Electron microscopic examination revealed that apoptotic cells were present in the primary enamel knot, and these apoptotic cells were phagocytized by neighbouring odontogenic epithelial cells, thus indicating the prompt disposal of any dead cells by epithelial cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Molar / embryology*
  • Molar / ultrastructure
  • Odontogenesis
  • Tooth Germ / cytology*
  • Tooth Germ / enzymology*


  • Casp3 protein, mouse
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases