Background: One of the key questions in developmental biology is how, from a relatively small number of conserved signaling pathways, is it possible to generate organs displaying a wide range of shapes, tissue organization, and function. The dentition and its distinct specific tooth types represent a valuable system to address the issues of differential molecular signatures. To identify such signatures, we performed a comparative transcriptomic analysis of developing murine lower incisors, mandibular molars and maxillary molars at the developmental cap stage (E14.5).
Results: 231 genes were identified as being differentially expressed between mandibular incisors and molars, with a fold change higher than 2 and a false discovery rate lower than 0.1, whereas only 96 genes were discovered as being differentially expressed between mandibular and maxillary molars. Numerous genes belonging to specific signaling pathways (the Hedgehog, Notch, Wnt, FGF, TGFβ/BMP, and retinoic acid pathways), and/or to the homeobox gene superfamily, were also uncovered when a less stringent fold change threshold was used. Differential expressions for 10 out of 12 (mandibular incisors versus molars) and 9 out of 10 selected genes were confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR). A bioinformatics tool (Ingenuity Pathway Analysis) used to analyze biological functions and pathways on the group of incisor versus molar differentially expressed genes revealed that 143 genes belonged to 9 networks with intermolecular connections. Networks with the highest significance scores were centered on the TNF/NFκB complex and the ERK1/2 kinases. Two networks ERK1/2 kinases and tretinoin were involved in differential molar morphogenesis.
Conclusion: These data allowed us to build several regulatory networks that may distinguish incisor versus molar identity, and may be useful for further investigations of these tooth-specific ontogenetic programs. These programs may be dysregulated in transgenic animal models and related human diseases leading to dental anomalies.