Gars and bichirs develop scales and teeth with ancient actinopterygian characteristics. Their scale surface and tooth collar are covered with enamel, also known as ganoin, whereas the tooth cap is equipped with an enamel-like tissue, acrodin. Here, we investigated the formation and mineralization of the ganoin and acrodin matrices in spotted gar, and the evolution of the scpp5, ameloblastin (ambn), and enamelin (enam) genes, which encode matrix proteins of ganoin. Results suggest that, in bichirs and gars, all these genes retain structural characteristics of their orthologs in stem actinopterygians, presumably reflecting the presence of ganoin on scales and teeth. During scale formation, Scpp5 and Enam were initially found in the incipient ganoin matrix and the underlying collagen matrix, whereas Ambn was detected mostly in a surface region of the well-developed ganoin matrix. Although collagen is the principal acrodin matrix protein, Scpp5 was detected within the matrix. Similarities in timings of mineralization and the secretion of Scpp5 suggest that acrodin evolved by the loss of the matrix secretory stage of ganoin formation: dentin formation is immediately followed by the maturation stage. The late onset of Ambn secretion during ganoin formation implies that Ambn is not essential for mineral ribbon formation, the hallmark of the enamel matrix. Furthermore, Scpp5 resembles amelogenin that is not important for the initial formation of mineral ribbons in mammals. It is thus likely that the evolution of ENAM was vital to the origin of the unique mineralization process of the enamel matrix.
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