Background: An iron rich layer on the labial surface is characteristic of the enamel of rodent incisors. In order to address a role for iron content in continuously growing incisors during odontogenesis, we studied iron deposition patterns in enamel and dentine using Perls' blue staining and ferritin heavy chain (Fth) immunolocalization. Fth expression is regulated by iron level; therefore its localization can be used as a sensitive indicator for iron deposition.
Results: Sagittal sections of 4-week old rat incisors showed a gradual increase in iron level in the enamel organ from secretory to maturation stages. In addition, iron was detected in ameloblasts of erupting third molars of 4-week old rats, suggesting iron plays a role in both incisor and molar development. In odontoblasts, the presence of iron was demonstrated, and this is consistent with iron's role in collagen synthesis. Using postnatal 3-, 6-, 9-day old mice, the spatial and temporal expression of Fth in tooth development again indicated the presence of iron in mature ameloblasts and odontoblasts.
Conclusions: While these data do not explain what functional role iron has in tooth formation, it does highlight a significant molecular activity associated with the formation of the rodent dentition.