Ameloblastomas are locally invasive and aggressive odontogenic tumors treated via surgical resection, which results in facial deformity and significant morbidity. Few studies have addressed the cellular and molecular events of ameloblastoma onset and progression, thus hampering the development of non-invasive therapeutic approaches. Tumorigenesis is driven by a plethora of factors, among which innervation has been long neglected. Recent findings have shown that innervation directly promotes tumor progression. On this basis, we investigated the molecular characteristics and neurotrophic properties of human ameloblastomas. Our results showed that ameloblastomas express dental epithelial stem cell markers, as well as components of the Notch signaling pathway, indicating persistence of stemness. We demonstrated that ameloblastomas express classical stem cell markers, exhibit stem cell potential, and form spheres. These tumors express also molecules of the Notch signaling pathway, fundamental for stem cells and their fate. Additionally, we showed that ameloblastomas express the neurotrophic factors NGF and BDNF, as well as their receptors TRKA, TRKB, and P75/NGFR, which are responsible for their innervation by trigeminal axons in vivo. In vitro studies using microfluidic devices showed that ameloblastoma cells attract and form connections with these nerves. Innervation of ameloblastomas might play a key role in the onset of this malignancy and might represent a promising target for non-invasive pharmacological interventions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited