Expression patterns of bone morphogenetic proteins (Bmps) in the developing mouse tooth suggest roles in morphogenesis and cell differentiation

Dev Dyn. 1997 Dec;210(4):383-96. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0177(199712)210:4<383::AID-AJA3>3.0.CO;2-C.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) are secretory signal molecules which have a variety of regulatory functions during morphogenesis and cell differentiation. Teeth are typical examples of vertebrate organs in which development is controlled by sequential and reciprocal signaling between the epithelium and mesenchyme. In addition, tooth development is characterized by formation of mineralized tissues: the bone-like dentin and cementum as well as epithelially derived enamel. We have performed a comparative in situ hybridization analysis of the expression of six different Bmps (Bmp-2 to Bmp-7) starting from initiation of tooth development to completion of crown morphogenesis when dentine and enamel matrices are being deposited. Bmps-2, -4, and -7 were frequently codistributed and showed marked associations with epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. Their expression shifted between the epithelium and mesenchyme starting from the stage of tooth initiation. They were subsequently expressed in the enamel knot, the putative signaling center regulating tooth shape. Their expression domains prior to and during the differentiation of the dentine-forming odontoblasts and enamel-forming ameloblasts was in line with functions in regulation of cell differentiation and/or secretory activities of the cells. The expression of Bmp-3 was confined to mesenchymal cells, in particular to the dental follicle cells which give rise to the cementoblasts, forming the hard tissue covering the roots of teeth. Bmp-5 was expressed only in the epithelial ameloblasts. It was upregulated as the cells started to polarize and intense expression continued in the secretory ameloblasts. Bmp-6 was expressed only weakly in the dental mesenchyme during bud and cap stages. Our results are in line with regulatory functions of Bmps at all stages of tooth morphogenesis. Bmps-2, -4, and -7 are conceivably parts of signaling networks regulating tooth initiation and shape development. They as well as Bmp-5 may be involved in the induction and formation of dentine and enamel, and Bmp-3 in the development of cementum. The remarkable overlaps in the expression domains of different Bmp genes may implicate functional redundancy and/or formation of active heterodimers between different BMPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Dental Enamel / metabolism
  • Dentin / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Morphogenesis / physiology
  • Tooth / cytology
  • Tooth / embryology
  • Tooth / metabolism*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins