Cadherins are cell adhesion molecules that are critical for tissue development. In this report, we identified members of the cadherin family cadherin-related neuronal receptors (CNRs) 1 and 5 expressed in rat incisors by the differential display method. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed that CNR1 mRNA is expressed in the secretory stage but reduced in the early-maturation stage, while CNR5 mRNA is expressed in both these stages. In situ hybridization showed that strong expression of CNR1 is strong in the secretory stage, but reduced in the early phase and diminished in the late phase of the early-maturation stage. CNR5 mRNA is expressed almost at the same levels in the secretory and in the early phase of the early-maturation stages but is absent in the late phase of the early-maturation stage. Both CNR1 and 5 mRNA are continuously expressed in odontoblasts. Immunohistology showed that CNR proteins are expressed in the secretory and early-maturation stages of ameloblasts, but no protein expression at the late-maturation stage was observed. CNR proteins were continuously expressed in odontoblasts. We found that recombinant CNR1 binds dental epithelial and mesenchymal cells through N-terminal domain EC1 in vitro. These results suggest that CNR1 and CNR5 may play an important role in enamel and dentin formation, probably through cell-cell and/or cell-matrix interactions.
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