Cellular renewal in the enamel organ and the odontoblast layer of the rat incisor as followed by radioautography using 3H-thymidine

Anat Rec. 1975 Dec;183(4):523-61. doi: 10.1002/ar.1091830405.


Renewal of the cell populations of the incisor was studied in 100 gm male rats injected with a single dose of 3H-thymidine and sacrificed at various times from one hour to 32 days after injection. Radioautographs showed that a cohort of labeled cells within the enamel organ, odontoblast layer, and pulp was carried passively with the erupting incisor from the apical end towards the gingival margin where the life cycle of these cells was terminated. Labeled cells in the upper and lower incisor, although traversing different absolute lengths, were found in approximately the same functional stage of their life cycle at similar times after the injection. Thus, by one and on-half days labeled ameloblasts began inner enamel secretion and, by eight days (upper) or nine days (lower), complement outer enamel secretion. By 32 days labeled ameloblasts had traversed the entire enamel maturation zone and were located at the gingival margin. Labeled odontoblasts followed closely the movement of labeled ameloblasts. The mean rate of ameloblast migration was 567 mum/day on the upper incisor and 651 mim/day on the lower. For the odontoblasts this rate was 55 mum/day (upper) and 631 mum/day (lower). Finally, it was found that as the rat age, the duration of the life cycle for epithelial and pulp cell populations of the incisor increased because of growth within the lonitudinal axis of the tooth. It was concluded that the apical end of the incisor literally "grows backward" in the bony socket, and hence, the duration of the life cycle becomes greater simply because it takes cells longer to physically reach the gingival margin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Ameloblasts / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Dental Pulp / cytology
  • Enamel Organ / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Incisor / anatomy & histology
  • Incisor / cytology*
  • Male
  • Mitosis
  • Odontoblasts / physiology*
  • Rats / anatomy & histology*
  • Thymidine / metabolism
  • Tooth Eruption
  • Tooth Germ / cytology*


  • Thymidine