Several extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins have been isolated from dentin and shown to be synthesized by odontoblasts. Highly phosphorylated proteins (HP), the phosphophoryns, are specifically found in dentin and are synthesized only by odontoblasts. Phosphophoryns are probably involved in controlling the site and/or the rate of circumpulpal mineralization. Other moderately phosphorylated (MP) and low phosphorylated (LP) proteins have also been detected in dentin, but have not been studied extensively. A 53 kDal dentin sialoprotein (DSP) that resembles bone sialoproteins is expressed by odontoblasts and by pulp cells, but essentially by no other cell type. The function of this protein is unknown. Osteocalcin (bone Gla protein) is synthesized by osteoblasts and by odontoblasts and found in the ECM of bone and dentin. Other tissues or cells (including pulp) do not express osteocalcin. The highly specific nature of these dentin and bone ECM proteins suggests that antibody and molecular probes for the phosphoproteins, DSP and osteocalcin could be valuable in studies on the differentiation and identification of odontoblasts and their precursors. Other bone NCPs shown to be present in dentin may also prove to be important in dentinogenesis.