Daughters of the Enamel Organ: Development, Fate, and Function of the Stratum Intermedium, Stellate Reticulum, and Outer Enamel Epithelium. Academic Article uri icon


  • The tooth enamel organ (EO) is a complex epithelial cell assembly involved in multiple aspects of tooth development, including amelogenesis. The present study focuses on the role of the nonameloblast layers of the EO, the stratum intermedium, the stellate reticulum, and the outer enamel epithelium (OEE). The secretory stage stratum intermedium was distinguished by p63-positive epithelial stem cell marks, highly specific alkaline phosphatase labeling, as well as multiple desmosomes and gap junctions. At the location of the presecretory stage stellate reticulum, the pre-eruption EO prominently featured the papillary layer (PL) as a keratin immunopositive network of epithelial strands between tooth crowns and oral epithelium. PL cell strands contained numerous p63-positive epithelial stem cells, while BrdU proliferative cells were detected at the outer boundaries of the PL, suggesting that the stellate reticulum/PL epithelial cell sheath proliferated to facilitate an epithelial seal during tooth eruption. Comparative histology studies demonstrated continuity between the OEE and the general lamina of continuous tooth replacement in reptiles, and the outer layer of Hertwig's epithelial root sheath in humans, implicating the OEE as the formative layer for continuous tooth replacement and tooth root extension. Cell fate studies in organ culture verified that the cervical portion of the mouse molar EO gave rise to Malassez rest-like cell islands. Together, these studies indicate that the nonameloblast layers of the EO play multiple roles during odontogenesis, including the maintenance of several p63-positive stem cell reservoirs, a role during tooth root morphogenesis and tooth succession, a stabilizing function for the ameloblast layer, the facilitation of ion transport from the EO capillaries to the enamel layer, as well as safe and seamless tooth eruption.

published proceedings

  • Stem Cells Dev

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, H., Yan, X., Pandya, M., Luan, X., & Diekwisch, T.

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Hui||Yan, Xiulin||Pandya, Mirali||Luan, Xianghong||Diekwisch, Thomas GH

publication date

  • January 2016