Int. J. Dev. Biol. 47: 281 - 292 (2003)
© UBC Press

Analysis of the odontogenic and osteogenic potentials of dental pulp in vivo using a Col1a1-2.3-GFP transgene.

Alen Braut, Edward J Kollar and Mina Mina

Department of Pediatric Dentistry, School of Dental Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.

ABSTRACT Recently, transgenic mice that carry a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) reporter gene fused to 2.3 kb fragment of rat Col1a1 regulatory sequences (pOBCol2.3GFPemd) were generated. In the present study, we have examined the patterns of expression of Col1a1-2.3-GFP during odontoblast differentiation in this transgenic line. We report that Col1a1-2.3-GFP is expressed in newly differentiated odontoblasts secreting predentin and fully differentiated odontoblasts. The pattern of expression of Col1a1-2.3-GFP in odontoblasts is correlated with that of dentin sialophosphoprotein (DSPP). Col1a1-2.3-GFP is also expressed in the osteoblasts and osteocytes of alveolar bone. The pattern of expression of Col1a1-2.3-GFP in osteocytes is correlated with the expression of Dmp1. These observations indicate the 2.3 kb rat Col1a1 promoter fragment has sufficient strength and specificity to monitor the stage-specific changes during both odontoblast and osteoblast differentiation. We also used coronal pulp tissues isolated from postnatal pOBCol2.3GFPemd transgenic animals to follow their differentiation after transplantation under the kidney capsule. Our observations provide direct evidence that the dental pulp contains competent progenitor cells capable of differentiating into new generations of odontoblast-like cells which express high levels of Col1a1-2.3-GFP and DSPP and secrete tubular containing reparative dentin. We also report that the dental pulp is capable of giving rise to atubular bone-like tissue containing osteocytes expressing high levels of Col1a1-2.3-GFP and Dmp1. Our studies indicate that pOBCol2.3GFPemd transgenic animals provide a powerful tool for direct examination of the underlying mechanisms and the signaling pathways involved in dentin regeneration and repair, stem cell properties and heterogeneity of the dental pulp.