Mineralized tissues are unique in that they use proteins to attract and organize calcium and phosphate ions into a structured mineral phase, thus precise knowledge of the expression and extracellular distribution of matrix proteins is very important to understand their function. Tooth development is regulated by sequential and reciprocal interactions between neural crest-derived mesenchymal cells and the oral environment. However, the precise molecular mechanisms that mediate interactions between epithelium and mesenchymal cells are not clear, although basement membrane (BM) components have been shown to play important roles in these regulatory events. In addition, the extracellular matrix layer, whose main components are laminin, collagen IV, nidogen, and sulfated proteoglycan, and the BM layer are both considered to be involved with cell proliferation and differentiation. During tooth morphogenesis, extracellular matrices are dramatically changed. Further, the BM components, laminin and collagen IV support dental epithelium; however, in the late stage, they begin the processes of enamel matrix secretion and calcification, after which the BM structure between the dental epithelium and mesenchyme disappears. In addition, tooth abnormalities associated with several kinds of human diseases that cause mutations in the extracellular matrix, as well as the molecular mechanisms of the basement membrane and enamel matrix during tooth morphogenesis, are not clearly understood. In our review, we discuss the role of the extracellular matrix, with focus on the BM and enamel matrix during tooth morphogenesis.
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