Extracellular matrix-mediated differentiation of periodontal progenitor cells.
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The periodontal ligament (PDL) is a specialized connective tissue that connects the surface of the tooth root with the bony tooth socket. The healthy PDL harbors stem cell niches and extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironments that facilitate periodontal regeneration. During periodontal disease, the PDL is often compromised or destroyed, reducing the life-span of the tooth. In order to explore new approaches toward the regeneration of diseased periodontal tissues, we have tested the effect of periodontal ECM signals, fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), and the cell adhesion peptide Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) on the differentiation of two types of periodontal progenitor cells, PDL progenitor cells (PDLPs) and dental follicle progenitor cells (DFCs). Our studies documented that CTGF and FGF2 significantly enhanced the expression of collagens I & III, biglycan and periostin in tissue engineered regenerates after 4 weeks compared to untreated controls. Specifically, CTGF promoted mature PDL-like tissue regeneration as demonstrated by dense periostin localization in collagen fiber bundles. CTGF and FGF2 displayed synergistic effects on collagen III and biglycan gene expression, while effects on mineralization were antagonistic to each other: CTGF promoted while FGF2 inhibited mineralization in PDL cell cultures. Incorporation of RGD peptides in hydrogel matrices significantly enhanced attachment, spreading, survival and mineralization of the encapsulated DFCs, suggesting that RGD additives might promote the use of hydrogels for periodontal mineralized tissue engineering. Together, our studies have documented the effect of three key components of the periodontal ECM on the differentiation of periodontal progenitor populations.