The question of whether odontoblast processes extend to the dentinal surface has been widely debated in previous studies. In this study odontoblast processes were investigated in the developing and aging dentin of rats and monkeys (Japanese macaques). For this purpose, F-actin of microfilaments and cellular membranes were stained with phalloidin and DiI, respectively. This dual staining demonstrated that positive signals for odontoblast processes were present in the dentinal surface in both the cusp and cervical regions of the dentin at 2 weeks of age. The tips of doubly positive processes were detectable in the dentinal surface in the cusp region even at 100 weeks of age, whereas in the cervical region they were retracted from the dentinal surface towards the pulp during the period of 3-6 weeks of age. During these stages, phalloidin-positive signals showing retracted odontoblast processes in the cervical region were closely associated with the interglobular dentin that was stained with sWGA-lectin. After 6 weeks of age, no association was observed between the processes and the interglobular dentin, since they were retracted approximately to the inner third portion of the dentinal tubules. This staining pattern can be detected until 100 weeks of age. Moreover, different distribution patterns of odontoblast processes between the two dentinal regions were also confirmed in dentin of monkey teeth. These results suggest that the existence of the regional differences in the extent of the odontoblast processes in the dentin, i.e., the persistence of the processes in the dentinal surface in the cusp region and their retraction from the dentinal surface in the cervical region.
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