Amelogenesis: Transformation of a protein-mineral matrix into tooth enamel. Academic Article uri icon


  • During enamel formation, the organic enamel protein matrix interacts with calcium phosphate minerals to form elongated, parallel, and bundled enamel apatite crystals of extraordinary hardness and biomechanical resilience. The enamel protein matrix consists of unique enamel proteins such as amelogenin, ameloblastin, and enamelin, which are secreted by highly specialized cells called ameloblasts. The ameloblasts also facilitate calcium and phosphate ion transport toward the enamel layer. Within ameloblasts, enamel proteins are transported as a polygonal matrix with 5nm subunits in secretory vesicles. Upon expulsion from the ameloblasts, the enamel protein matrix is re-organized into 20nm subunit compartments. Enamel matrix subunit compartment assembly and expansion coincide with C-terminal cleavage by the MMP20 enamel protease and N-terminal amelogenin self-assembly. Upon enamel crystal precipitation, the enamel protein phase is reconfigured to surround the elongating enamel crystals and facilitate their elongation in C-axis direction. At this stage of development, and upon further amelogenin cleavage, central and polyproline-rich fragments of the amelogenin molecule associate with the growing mineral crystals through a process termed "shedding", while hexagonal apatite crystals fuse in longitudinal direction. Enamel protein sheath-coated enamel "dahlite" crystals continue to elongate until a dense bundle of parallel apatite crystals is formed, while the enamel matrix is continuously degraded by proteolytic enzymes. Together, these insights portrait enamel mineral nucleation and growth as a complex and dynamic set of interactions between enamel proteins and mineral ions that facilitate regularly seeded apatite growth and parallel enamel crystal elongation.

published proceedings

  • J Struct Biol

altmetric score

  • 3.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Pandya, M., & Diekwisch, T.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Pandya, Mirali||Diekwisch, Thomas GH

publication date

  • January 2021