Heterogeneity and developmental connections between cell types inhabiting teeth


Every tissue is composed of multiple cell types that are developmentally, evolutionary and functionally integrated into the unit we call an organ. Teeth, our organs for biting and mastication, are complex and made of many different cell types connected or disconnected in terms of their ontogeny. In general, epithelial and mesenchymal compartments represent the major framework of tooth formation. Thus, they give rise to the two most important matrix-producing populations: ameloblasts generating enamel and odontoblasts producing dentin. However, the real picture is far from this quite simplified view. Diverse pulp cells, the immune system, the vascular system, the innervation and cells organizing the dental follicle all interact, and jointly participate in transforming lifeless matrix into a functional organ that can sense and protect itself. Here we outline the heterogeneity of cell types that inhabit the tooth, and also provide a life history of the major populations. The mouse model system has been indispensable not only for the studies of cell lineages and heterogeneity, but also for the investigation of dental stem cells and tooth patterning during development. Finally, we briefly discuss the evolutionary aspects of cell type diversity and dental tissue integration.

Frontiers in Physiology