Stem cells are essential for the regeneration and homeostasis of many organs, such as tooth, hair, skin, and intestine. Although human tooth regeneration is limited, a number of animals have evolved continuously growing teeth that provide models of stem cell-based organ renewal. A well-studied model is the mouse incisor, which contains dental epithelial stem cells in structures known as cervical loops. These stem cells produce progeny that proliferate and migrate along the proximo-distal axis of the incisor and differentiate into enamel-forming ameloblasts. Here, we studied the role of E-cadherin in behavior of the stem cells and their progeny. Levels of E-cadherin are highly dynamic in the incisor, such that E-cadherin is expressed in the stem cells, downregulated in the transit-amplifying cells, re-expressed in the pre-ameloblasts and then downregulated again in the ameloblasts. Conditional inactivation of E-cadherin in the cervical loop led to decreased numbers of label-retaining stem cells, increased proliferation, and decreased cell migration in the mouse incisor. Using both genetic and pharmacological approaches, we showed that Fibroblast Growth Factors regulate E-cadherin expression, cell proliferation and migration in the incisor. Together, our data indicate that E-cadherin is an important regulator of stem cells and their progeny during growth of the mouse incisor.
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