Wnt/β-catenin signaling is essential for tooth development beyond the bud stage, but little is known about the role of non-canonical Wnt signaling in odontogenesis. Here we compared the expression of Wnt5a, a representative of noncanonical Wnts, with that of Ror2, the Wnt5a receptor for non-canonical signaling, in the developing tooth, and analyzed tooth phenotype in Wnt5a mutants. Wnt5a-deficient mice exhibit retarded tooth development beginning from E16.5, leading to the formation of smaller and abnormally patterned teeth with a delayed odontoblast differentiation at birth. These defects are associated with upregulated Axin2 and Shh expression in the dental epithelium and reduced levels of cell proliferation in the dental epithelium and mesenchyme. Retarded tooth development and defective odontoblast differentiation were also observed in Ror2 mutant mice. Our results suggest that Wnt5a regulates growth, patterning, and odontoblast differentiation during odontogenesis, at least partially by modulating Wnt/β-catenin canonical signaling.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.