Activated WNT signaling in postnatal SOX2-positive dental stem cells can drive odontoma formation

Guilherme Xavier, Amanda Louise Patist, Christopher Paul Healy, Ankita Pagrut, G Carreno, Paul Thomas Sharpe, J P Martinez-Barbera, Selvam James Thavaraj, Martyn Timothy Cobourne, Cynthia Andoniadou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
227 Downloads (Pure)


In common with most mammals, humans form only two dentitions during their lifetime. Occasionally, supernumerary teeth develop in addition to the normal complement. Odontoma represent a small group of malformations containing calcified dental tissues of both epithelial and mesenchymal origin, with varying levels of organization, including tooth-like structures. The specific cell type responsible for the induction of odontoma, which retains the capacity to re-initiate de novo tooth development in postnatal tissues, is not known. Here we demonstrate that aberrant activation of WNT signaling by expression of a non-degradable form of β-catenin specifically in SOX2-positive postnatal dental epithelial stem cells is sufficient to generate odontoma containing multiple tooth-like structures complete with all dental tissue layers. Genetic lineage-Tracing confirms that odontoma form in a similar manner to normal teeth, derived from both the mutation-sustaining epithelial stem cells and adjacent mesenchymal tissues. Activation of the WNT pathway in embryonic SOX2-positive progenitors results in ectopic expression of secreted signals that promote odontogenesis throughout the oral cavity. Significantly, the inductive potential of epithelial dental stem cells is retained in postnatal tissues, and up-regulation of WNT signaling specifically in these cells is sufficient to promote generation and growth of ectopic malformations faithfully resembling human odontoma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14479
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2015


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