The present study was undertaken to examine whether synthesis of type IV collagen and laminin around the epithelial rests of Malassez (ERM) requires direct contact between cells from ERM and periodontal ligament fibroblasts. Human periodontal ligament (HPDL) explants produced outgrowths containing both ERM cells and fibroblasts when cultured in a modified serum-free medium. The interface between ERM cells and fibroblasts was examined using phase-contrast microscopy (PCM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Expression of type IV collagen and laminin was studied by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. It was observed that ERM cells grew underneath fibroblasts or attached to them. At the interface, type IV collagen and laminin and their respective mRNAs were abundant in both ERM cells and fibroblasts, while these proteins and mRNAs showed little if any staining in cells further away from the interface. Hence, these findings indicate that synthesis of type IV collagen and laminin is induced by direct interaction between ERM cells and periodontal ligament fibroblasts.