It is generally accepted that cementoblasts originate in the process of differentiation of the mesenchymal cells of the dental follicle. Recently, a different hypothesis for the origin of cementoblasts has been proposed. Hertwig's epithelial root sheath cells undergo the epithelial-mesenchymal transformation to differentiate into cementoblasts. To elucidate whether the epithelial-mesenchymal transformation occurs in the epithelial sheath, developing rat molars were examined by keratin-vimentin and Runx2 (runt-related transcription factor 2)-keratin double immunostaining. In both acellular and cellular cementogenesis, epithelial sheath and epithelial cells derived from the epithelial sheath expressed keratin, but did not express vimentin or Runx2. Dental follicle cells and cementoblasts, however, expressed vimentin and Runx2, but did not express keratin. No cells showed coexisting keratin-vimentin or Runx2-keratin staining. These findings suggest that there is no intermediate phenotype transforming epithelial to mesenchymal cells, and that epithelial sheath cells do not generate mineralized tissue. This study concludes that the epithelial-mesenchymal transformation does not occur in Hertwig's epithelial root sheath in rat acellular or cellular cementogenesis and that the dental follicle is the origin of cementoblasts, as has been proposed in the original hypothesis. © 2009 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
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