Basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors play an important role in various organs’ development; however, a tooth-specific bHLH factor has not been reported. In this study, we identified a novel tooth-specific bHLH transcription factor, which we named AmeloD, by screening a tooth germ complementary DNA (cDNA) library using a yeast 2-hybrid system. AmeloD was mapped onto the mouse chromosome 1q32. Phylogenetic analysis showed that AmeloD belongs to the achaete-scute complex-like (ASCL) gene family and is a homologue of ASCL5. AmeloD was uniquely expressed in the inner enamel epithelium (IEE), but its expression was suppressed after IEE cell differentiation into ameloblasts. Furthermore, AmeloD expression showed an inverse expression pattern with the epithelial cell-specific cell–cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin in the dental epithelium. Overexpression of AmeloD in dental epithelial cell line CLDE cells resulted in E-cadherin suppression. We found that AmeloD bound to E-box cis-regulatory elements in the proximal promoter region of the E-cadherin gene. These results reveal that AmeloD functions as a suppressor of E-cadherin transcription in IEE cells. Our study demonstrated that AmeloD is a novel tooth-specific bHLH transcription factor that may regulate tooth development through the suppression of E-cadherin in IEE cells.
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