Volume 66 (2003) Issue 1 Pages 73-81
Innervation and terminal morphology in the lingual periodontal ligament of the incisor were investigated in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) heterozygous mice and littermate wild-type mice (aged two months) using immunohistochemistry for protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5), a general neuronal marker. In addition, computer-assisted quantitative analysis was performed for a comparison of neuronal density in the periodontal ligament between heterozygous and wild-type mice. In wild-type mice, the periodontal ligament was found to be richly innervated by the mechanoreceptive Ruffini endings and nociceptive free nerve endings in the alveolus-related part of the periodontal ligament. The periodontal Ruffini endings in the wild-type mice incisor ligament were classified into two types: type I with ruffled outlines, and type II with a smooth outline. BDNF heterozygous mice showed malformations of the type I Ruffini endings which included fewer nerve fibers and fewer ramifications than those in wild-type mice as well as smooth outlines of the axon terminals. Quantitative analysis under a confocal microscope showed a roughly 18% reduction in neuronal density in the periodontal ligament of the heterozygous mice. These findings suggest that the development and maturation of the periodontal Ruffini endings require BDNF.