Heterodonty is one of the hallmarks of mammals. It has been suggested that, homeobox genes, differentially expressed in the ectomesenchyme of the jaw primordium along the distal-proximal axis, would determine the tooth classes (homeobox code model) based on mouse studies. Because mouse has highly specialized tooth pattern lacking canine and premolars (dental formula: 1003/1003, for upper and lower jaws, respectively), it is unclear if the suggested model could be applied for mammals with all tooth classes, including human. We thus compared the homeobox code gene expressions in various mammals, such as opossum (5134/4134), ferret (3131/3132), as well as mouse. We found that Msx1 and BarX1 expression domains in the jaw primordium of the opossum and ferret embryos show a large overlap, but such overlap is small in mouse. Detailed analyses of gene expressions and subsequent morphogenesis of tooth germ in the opossum indicated that the Msx1/BarX1 double-positive domain will correspond to the premolar region, and Alx3-negative/Msx1-positive/BarX1-negative domain will correspond to canine. This study therefore provides a significant update of the homeobox code model in the mammalian heterodonty. We also show that the modulation of FGF-mediated Msx1 activation contributes to the variation in the proximal Msx1 expression among species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas