Introduction CD44 is a cell-surface glycoprotein involved in various cellular functions. Recent studies have suggested that CD44 is involved in early mineralization of odontoblasts. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is the principal ligand for receptor CD44. Whether and how HA regulated the mineralization process of dental pulp cells were investigated. Methods The effects of high-molecular-weight HA on differentiation and mineral deposition of dental pulp cells were tested by using alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity assay and alizarin red S staining. Osteogenesis real-time polymerase chain reaction array, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and Western blotting were performed to identify downstream molecules involved in the mineralization induction of HA. CD44 was knocked down and examined to confirm whether the mineralization effect of HA was mediated by receptor CD44. Immunohistochemistry was used to understand the localization patterns of CD44 and the identified downstream proteins in vivo. Results Pulse treatment of HA enhanced ALP activity and mineral deposition in dental pulp cells. Tissue-nonspecific ALP, bone morphogenetic protein 7 (BMP7), and type XV collagen (Col15A1) were upregulated via the HA-CD44 pathway in vitro. Immunohistochemistry of tooth sections showed that the staining pattern of BMP7 was very similar to that of CD44. Conclusions Results of this study indicated that high-molecular-weight HA enhanced early mineralization of dental pulp cells mediated via CD44. The process involved important mineralization-associated molecules including tissue-nonspecific ALP, BMP7, and Col15A1. The findings may help develop new strategies in regenerative endodontics.
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