New aspects of the distribution and developmental appearance of the 44-kDa bone phosphoprotein (44K BPP, also called sialoprotein I or osteopontin) and bone γ-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla)-containing protein (BGP, also called osteocalcin) during osteogenesis and dentinogenesis were investigated with immunocytochemical techniques using monospecific, affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies. Sections from newborn rat incisors and from various bone anlagen of newborn animals and fetuses were processed for detection of 44K BPP or BGP antigenicity. In addition, histochemical reactions for detection of alkaline phosphatase or calcium salts were performed on a number of the sections. The 44K BPP appears to be synthesized and secreted by chondrocytes only in the areas of cartilage-to-bone transition; these cells could participate indirectly in the process of bone formation by providing a suitable scaffold onto which primary marrow osteoblasts attach and spread. During osteogenesis, 44K BPP is found in bone-forming cells almost concomitantly with the appearance of alkaline phosphatase and before osteoid deposition, whereas BGP is still absent during early stages of mineralization. We hypothesize that this dramatic difference between the developmental appearance of 44K BPP and BGP reflects the delayed expression of the BGP gene relative to that of 44K BPP. In long-term cultures of bone marrow from adult mice, some fibroblastic cells expressed the 44K BPP phenotype; these cells could represent early osteogenic progenitor cells. Some experiments also suggested that, as with BGP, 44K BPP or an immunologically related protein is synthesized by some odontoblasts and secreted into predentin, prior to the onset of mineralization. © 1988, International Society of Differentiation. All rights reserved.