Evidence for the role of the enamel knot as a control center in mammalian tooth cusp formation: non-dividing cells express growth stimulating Fgf-4 gene

Int J Dev Biol. 1994 Sep;38(3):463-9.


The main morphological features of the mammalian tooth crown are cusps, but the developmental mechanisms that cause the formation of cusps are unknown. Tooth cusp formation commences at cap-stage with the appearance of the enamel knot, which is a cluster of non-dividing epithelial cells. In this study, enamel knot was first seen in embryonic mice molar teeth at the onset of cap-stage. Later in tooth development, secondary enamel knot structures were observed at the cusp tips and their appearance corresponded to the formation of individual cusp morphology. Comparisons of the pattern of cell proliferation in embryonic mouse molars and the expression of fibroblast growth factor-4 (Fgf-4) gene revealed that expression of Fgf-4 mRNA is strictly localized to the non-dividing cells of the enamel knot. However, when FGF-4 protein was introduced onto isolated dental tissues in vitro, it stimulated the proliferation of both dental epithelial and mesenchymal cells. Based on these results, we suggest that the enamel knot may control tooth morphogenesis by concurrently stimulating cusp growth (via FGF-4 synthesis) and by directing folding of cusp slopes (by not proliferating itself).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Dental Enamel / physiology*
  • Dental Papilla / growth & development
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 4
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / genetics
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / pharmacology
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Molar / cytology
  • Molar / embryology
  • Molar / growth & development*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Odontogenesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / pharmacology
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis


  • Fgf4 protein, mouse
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 4
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors