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The periodontal ligament (PDL), a soft tissue connecting the tooth and the bone, is essential for tooth movement, bone remodeling and force dissipation. A collagenous network that connects the tooth root surface to the alveolar jaw bone is one of the major components of the PDL. The organization of the collagenous component and how it changes under load is still poorly understood. Here using a state-of-the-art custom-made loading apparatus and a humidified environment inside a microCT, we visualize the PDL collagenous network of a fresh rat molar in 3D at 1 μm voxel size without any fixation or contrasting agents. We demonstrate that the PDL collagen network is organized in sheets. The spaces between sheets vary thus creating dense and sparse networks. Upon vertical loading, the sheets in both networks are stretched into well aligned arrays. The sparse network is located mainly in areas which undergo compressive loading as the tooth moves towards the bone, whereas the dense network functions mostly in tension as the tooth moves further from the bone. This new visualization method can be used to study other non-mineralized or partially mineralized tissues, and in particular those that are subjected to mechanical loads. The method will also be valuable for characterizing diseased tissues, as well as better understanding the phenotypic expressions of genetic mutants. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Gili R S Naveh, Vlad Brumfeld, Ron Shahar, Steve Weiner. Tooth periodontal ligament: Direct 3D microCT visualization of the collagen network and how the network changes when the tooth is loaded. Journal of structural biology. 2013 Feb;181(2):108-15

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PMID: 23110851

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