Amelogenin phosphorylation regulates tooth enamel formation by stabilizing a transient amorphous mineral precursor

Nah Young Shin, Hajime Yamazaki, Elia Beniash, Xu Yang, Seth S. Margolis, Megan K. Pugach, James P. Simmer, Henry C. Margolis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Dental enamel comprises interwoven arrays of extremely long and narrow crystals of carbonated hydroxyapatite called enamel rods. Amelogenin (AMELX) is the predominant extracellular enamel matrix protein and plays an essential role in enamel formation (amelogenesis). Previously, we have demonstrated that full-length AMELX forms higher-order supramolecular assemblies that regulate ordered mineralization in vitro, as observed in enamel rods. Phosphorylation of the sole AMELX phosphorylation site (Ser-16) in vitro greatly enhances its capacity to stabilize amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP), the first mineral phase formed in developing enamel, and prevents apatitic crystal formation. To test our hypothesis that AMELX phosphorylation is critical for amelogenesis, we generated and characterized a hemizygous knockin (KI) mouse model with a phosphorylation-defective Ser-16 to Ala-16 substitution in AMELX. Using EM analysis, we demonstrate that in the absence of phosphorylated AMELX, KI enamel lacks enamel rods, the hallmark component of mammalian enamel, and, unlike WT enamel, appears to be composed of less organized arrays of shorter crystals oriented normal to the dentinoenamel junction. KI enamel also exhibited hypoplasia and numerous surface defects, whereas heterozygous enamel displayed highly variable mosaic structures with both KI and WT features. Importantly, ACP-to-apatitic crystal transformation occurred significantly faster in KI enamel. Secretory KI ameloblasts also lacked Tomes' processes, consistent with the absence of enamel rods, and underwent progressive cell pathology throughout enamel development. In conclusion, AMELX phosphorylation plays critical mechanistic roles in regulating ACP-phase transformation and enamel crystal growth, and in maintaining ameloblast integrity and function during amelogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1943-1959
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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