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Not so, the Rochester team found: All the action takes place instead in a deeper cell layer called the mesenchyme.
Think of the Osr2 gene as a control switch, a kind of gene that turns on and off the downstream actions of other genes and proteins. In that mesenchymal tissue, the Osr2 gene works in concert with two other genes to make sure budding teeth form in the right spot, said lead researcher Dr. Rulang Jiang, a geneticist at Rochester's Center for Oral Biology.
"It's almost a self-generating propagation of the signal" that leads to one tooth after another forming all in a row, he explained.
Knocking that molecular pathway out of whack causes either missing or extra teeth to result, Jiang showed in a series of mouse experiments.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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