Current knowledge on the Ruffini endings, primary mechanoreceptors in the periodontal ligament is reviewed with special reference to their cytochemical features and regeneration process. Morphologically, they are characterized by extensive ramifications of expanded axonal terminals and an association with specialized Schwann cells, called lamellar or terminal Schwann cells, which are categorized, based on their histochemical properties, as non-myelin-forming Schwann cells. Following nerve injury, the periodontal Ruffini endings of the rat incisor ligament can regenerate more rapidly than Ruffini endings in other tissues. During regeneration, terminal Schwann cells associated with the periodontal Ruffini endings migrate into regions where they are never found under normal conditions. Also during regeneration, alterations in the expression level of various bioactive substances occur in both axonal and Schwann cell elements in the periodontal Ruffini endings. Neuropeptide Y, which is not detected in intact periodontal Ruffini endings, is transiently expressed in their regenerating axons. Growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43) is expressed transiently in both axonal and Schwann cell elements during regeneration, while this protein is localized in the Schwann sheath of periodontal Ruffini endings under normal conditions. The expression of calbindin D28k and calretinin, both belonging to the buffering type of calcium-binding proteins, was delayed in periodontal Ruffini endings, compared to their morphological regeneration. As the importance of axon-Schwann cell interaetions has been proposed, further investigations are needed to elucidate their molecular mechanism-particularly the contribution of growth factors-during the regeneration as well as development of the periodontal Ruffini endings.
2000 by International Society of Histology and Cytology