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The objective of this study was to investigate the involvement of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system in the developing mandibular condylar cartilage and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Fetal mice at embryonic day (E) 13.0-18.5 were used for in situ hybridization studies using [35S]-labeled RNA probes for IGF-I, IGF-II, IGF-I receptor (-IR), and IGF binding proteins (-BPs). At E13.0, IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA were expressed in the mesenchyme around the mandibular bone, but IGF-IR mRNA was not expressed within the bone. At E14.0, IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA were expressed in the outer layer of the condylar anlage, and IGF-IR mRNA was first detected within the condylar anlage, suggesting that the presence of IGF-IR mRNA in an IGF-rich environment triggers the initial formation of the condylar cartilage. IGFBP-4 mRNA was expressed in the anlagen of the articular disc and lower joint cavity from E15.0 to 18.5. When the upper joint cavity was formed at E18.5, IGFBP-4 mRNA expression was reduced in the fibrous mesenchymal tissue facing the upper joint cavity. Enhanced IGFBP-2 mRNA expression was first recognized in the anlagen of both the articular disc and lower joint cavity at E16.0 and continued expression in these tissues as well as in the fibrous mesenchymal tissue facing the upper joint cavity was observed at E18.5. IGFBP-5 mRNA was continuously expressed in the outer layer of the perichondrium/fibrous cell layer in the developing mandibular condyle. These findings suggest that the IGF system is involved in the formation of the condylar cartilage as well as in the TMJ.
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