Species-specific cusp patterns result from the iterative formation of enamel knots, the epithelial signaling centers, at the future cusp positions. The expressions of fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), especially Fgf4, in the secondary enamel knots in the areas of the future cusp tips are generally used to manifest the appearance of species-specific tooth shapes. However, the mechanism underlying the predictive role of FGFs in species-specific cusp patterns remains obscure. Here, we demonstrated that gerbils, which have a lophodont pattern, exhibit a striped expression pattern of Fgf4, whereas mice, which have a bunodont pattern, have a spotted expression pattern, and these observations verify the predictive role of Fgf4 in species-specific cusp patterns. By manipulating FGFs’ signaling in the inner dental epithelium of gerbils, we provide evidence for the intracellular participation of FGF signaling, specifically FGF4 and FGF20, in Rac1- and RhoA-regulated cellular geometry remolding during the determination of different cusp patterns. Our study presents a novel explanation of how different FGF expression patterns produce different cusp patterns and implies that a conserved intracellular FGF-GTPase signaling module might represent an underlying developmental basis for evolutionary changes in cusp patterns.
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