β-catenin signaling is required for embryonic tooth morphogenesis and promotes continuous tooth development when activated in embryos. To determine whether activation of this pathway in the adult oral cavity could promote tooth development, we induced mutation of epithelial β-catenin to a stabilized form in adult mice. This caused increased proliferation of the incisor tooth cervical loop, outpouching of incisor epithelium, abnormal morphology of the epithelial-mesenchymal junction, and enhanced expression of genes associated with embryonic tooth development. Ectopic dental-like structures were formed from the incisor region following implantation into immunodeficient mice. Thus, forced activation of β-catenin signaling can initiate an embryonic-like program of tooth development in adult rodent incisor teeth.
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