Epithelial rest cells of Malassez (ERM) are small groups of epithelial cells within the periodontal ligament closely approximated to the radicular cementum surface. The cells have a high nuclear/cytoplasm ratio. In oblique sections of the periodontal ligament, the cell rests can be seen, not as isolated groups of cells but as a network, similar to a fish-net, surrounding the root.
The function of the ERM is unknown and their participation in some dental pathological conditions is still controversial. Some new publications have described the isolation of ERM from human periodontal ligaments. To date no publications have described the expression of bone-related proteins by ERM.
ERM were cultured and isolated from porcine periodontal ligaments (chapter 2). An immunohistochemical study was carried out in rat porcine and human periodontal sections using AE1/AE3 antibody. The expression of cytokeratins by ERM was demonstrated in all species (chapter 3).
Characterization and identification of ERM was achieved by Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), immunohistochemistry and Western blot. The results demonstrated the epithelial nature of these cells obtained from the mid radicular third of porcine first deciduous molars (chapter 4).
An in vitro study using a semi quantitated RT-PCR technique was carried out in four different types of porcine periodontal cells (GF, PDLF, ERM and alveolar bone cells). These cell types were compared for the expression of the bone related proteins osteopontin and bone sialoprotein. The strongest expression of osteopontin was for the ERM compared to alveolar bone cells, PDLF and GF. These results demonstrated for the first time the expression of osteopontin from cultured porcine ERM suggesting a possible role of these cells in cementogenesis (chapter 5).
Finally, emdogain (EMD), an enamel matrix derivative protein, was utilized at different concentrations to stimulate periodontal ligament cells and determine its role in proliferation, attachment and by RT-PCR expression of osteopontin or bone sialoprotein in vitro (chapter6). EMD demonstrated proliferative and attachment responses in a dose dependent manner. EMD stimulated the expression of OPN m RNA by porcine ERM and alveolar bone cells. The results contribute to explaining the different regenerative events associated with EMD in periodontal regenerative therapy.
The findings of this study contribute to a broader understanding of possible functions of the ERM and suggests a role for these cells in cementogenesis by their strong OPN expression.