In previous studies by our group, we reported that thymosin beta 4 (Tb4) is closely associated with the initiation and development of the tooth germ, and can induce the expression of runt-related transcription factor 2 (RUNX2) during the development of the tooth germ. RUNX2 regulates the expression of odontogenesis-related genes, such as amelogenin, X-linked (Amelx), ameloblastin (Ambn) and enamelin (Enam), as well as the differentiation of osteoblasts during bone formation. However, the mechanisms through which Tb4 induces the expression of RUNX2 remain unknown. In the present study, we employed a mouse dental epithelial cell line, mDE6, with the aim to elucidate these mechanisms. The mDE6 cells expressed odontogenesis-related genes, such as Runx2, Amelx, Ambn and Enam, and formed calcified matrices upon the induction of calcification, thus showing characteristics of odontogenic epithelial cells. The expression of odontogenesis-related genes, and the calcification of the mDE6 cells were reduced by the inhibition of phosphorylated Smad1/5 (p-Smad1/5) and phosphorylated Akt (p-Akt) proteins. Furthermore, we used siRNA against Tb4 to determine whether RUNX2 expression and calcifcation are associated with Tb4 expression in the mDE6 cells. The protein expression of p-Smad1/5 and p-Akt in the mDE6 cells was reduced by treatment with Tb4-siRNA. These results suggest that Tb4 is associated with RUNX2 expression through the Smad and PI3K-Akt signaling pathways, and with calcification through RUNX2 expression in the mDE6 cells. This study provides putative information concerning the signaling pathway through which Tb4 induces RUNX2 expression, which may help to understand the regulation of tooth development and tooth regeneration.
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