Stem cells of the apical papilla regulate trigeminal neurite outgrowth and targeting through a BDNF-dependent mechanism

Jose Flavio A. De Almeida, Paul Chen, Michael A. Henry, Anibal Diogenes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Regenerative endodontic procedures have become a valuable alternative for the treatment of immature teeth with pulp necrosis. In addition to resolution of periradicular pathosis and promotion of continued root development, positive vitality testing has been observed in some regenerative clinical cases. Importantly, the positive response to electric stimulation of the regenerated tissue requires targeting of periradicular axons into the previously empty root canal space. However, the mechanism by which this process occurs is largely unknown. Since stem cells of the apical papilla (SCAP) have been proposed to populate the root canal following regenerative endodontic procedures, we hypothesized that SCAP regulate neurite outgrowth and axonal targeting. To test this hypothesis, we established primary co-cultures of human SCAP and rat trigeminal neurons, and performed neurite outgrowth assays using ELISA and confocal microscopy to determine the effect of increasing concentration of SCAP on the total neurite outgrowth and axonal targeting. In addition, we evaluated whether SCAP evoked axonal targeting in vivo using a matrigel subcutaneous implant assay. Data were analyzed by ANOVA with Bonferroni's post hoc test, and significance was set at p<0.05. The results demonstrated that SCAP release a soluble factor that regulates neurite outgrowth from cultured trigeminal neurons. Next, we demonstrated that this effect is completely abolished by pretreatment with a neutralizing antibody to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), but not by antibodies to other neurotrophins. Further, SCAP release BDNF in a concentration-dependent manner as detected by ELISA, and trigger directed axonal targeting both in vitro and in vivo as demonstrated by microfluidic and matrigel implant experiments, respectively. Collectively, these results suggest that SCAP may be responsible for the chemical signal driving axons to target regenerated tissue via a BDNF-dependent mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3089-3100
Number of pages12
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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