1. Investigations were designed to identify the proteins which characterize the ameloblast phenotype, and to determine to what extent these extracellular-matrix proteins were degraded as a function of enamel matrix mineralization and maturation. 2. The identification of enamel proteins was based on comparisons between the electrophoretic patterns of enamel-containing and non-enamel-containing matrix extracts isolated from specific regions within 26-day embryonic New Zealand White rabbit incisor and molar tooth organs. 3. Since enamel proteins become mineralized on secretion, matrix specimens were demineralized in cold 5% (w/v) trichloroacetic acid, extracted with buffered 6M-urea and reduced with mercaptoethanol, and then the solubilized proteins were fractionated by urea/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis. 4. Three enamel-specific electrophoretic components were identified in newly secreted enamel-matrix specimens and this number increased as a function of mineralization and maturation. 5. Antibodies were prepared against embryonic rabbit extracellular matrix containing enamel. Comparison etween immunoelectrophoretic patterns demonstrated that two of the three enamel components were antigenic. 6. Polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis in sodium dodecyl sulphate was used to identify four enamel proteins of mol.wts. (1) 65 000 (2) 58000 (3) 22 000 and (4) 20 000, localized within enamel matrix. Enamel proteins (1) and (3) were phosphorylated, whereas (2) and (4) did not contain detectable phosphate. Labelled proline, leucine, tryptophan and glucosamine were incorporated into each of the four enamel proteins extracted from tooth explants incubated in the presence of radioactive precursors for 6 h. Whereas four proteins were identified in newly secreted enamel matrix, the concentrations of high-molecular-weight proteins (1) and (2) were found to decrease and the number (greater than 10) and concentration of low-molecular-weight polypeptides increased as a function of advanced enamel-matrix mineralization and maturation.

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