The developing enamel matrix: nature and function

Eur J Oral Sci. 1998 Jan;106 Suppl 1:282-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0722.1998.tb02188.x.


The hydroxyapatite crystals of mature enamel are unusually large, uniform and regularly disposed within the tissue, implying that their development is a highly controlled process. The organic matrix of developing enamel is presumed to play an important role in the modulation of mineral deposition and growth during tooth morphogenesis but the precise functions of individual matrix proteins remain unclear. The aim of this review was to survey the current knowledge of enamel matrix proteins with a view to suggesting possible functions. The organic matrix is highly heterogeneous, comprising proteins derived from a number of different genes, including amelogenin, enamelin, ameloblastin (amelin/sheathlin), tuftelin, dentine sialophosphoprotein, enzymes and serum proteins such as albumin. Each of these classes appears to undergo post-secretory sequential degradation which contributes further towards matrix heterogeneity. Possible functions of these proteins include de novo mineral nucleation/initiation (dentine sialophosphoprotein, tuftelin), mineral ion binding as crystal precursors (amelogenin, enamelin), control of crystal growth (amelogenin, enamelin, ameloblastin), support of growing crystals (amelogenin, enamelin), determination of prismatic structure (ameloblastin), cell signalling (tuftelin, ameloblastin), control of secretion (breakdown products) and protection of the mineral phase (amelogenin, enamelin). Failure of these mechanisms could lead to incomplete maturation of the enamel and the eruption of dysplastic tissue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ameloblasts / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Crystallization
  • Dental Enamel / growth & development*
  • Dental Enamel / metabolism*
  • Dental Enamel Proteins / genetics
  • Dental Enamel Proteins / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Odontogenesis / genetics
  • Odontogenesis / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Dental Enamel Proteins
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Minerals