Periodontal tissue supports teeth in the alveolar bone socket via fibrous attachment of the periodontal ligament (PDL). The PDL contains periodontal fibroblasts and stem/progenitor cells, collectively known as PDL cells (PDLCs), on top of osteoblasts and cementoblasts on the surface of alveolar bone and cementum, respectively. However, the characteristics and lineage hierarchy of each cell type remain poorly defined. This study identified periodontal ligament associated protein-1 (Plap-1) as a PDL-specific extracellular matrix protein. We generated knock-in mice expressing CreERT2 and GFP specifically in Plap-1-positive PDLCs. Genetic lineage tracing confirmed the long-standing hypothesis that PDLCs differentiate into osteoblasts and cementoblasts. A PDL single-cell atlas defined cementoblasts and osteoblasts as Plap-1Ibsp+Sparcl1+ and Plap-1Ibsp+Col11a2+, respectively. Other populations, such as Nes+ mural cells, S100B+ Schwann cells, and other non-stromal cells, were also identified. RNA velocity analysis suggested that a Plap-1highLy6a+ cell population was the source of PDLCs. Lineage tracing of Plap-1+ PDLCs during periodontal injury showed periodontal tissue regeneration by PDLCs. Our study defines diverse cell populations in PDL and clarifies the role of PDLCs in periodontal tissue homeostasis and repair.

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