Alternative splicing is an important mechanism for increasing genetic complexity leading to multiple transcripts from single genes and gene regulation through alternative promoters. Splicing often leads to unique tissue-specific patterns of mRNAs with specific biological functions. Nuclear factor I-C (NFI-C), a member of the NFI gene family, is expressed in numerous tissues including brain, liver, spleen and heart. However, the unique dental phenotype of Nfic-/- mice lacking molar roots demonstrates a critical role for this transcription factor in root formation. In humans, the NFI-C gene is alternatively spliced producing 4 isoforms. However, different spliced variants have not been studied in association with tissue specificity. The main objective of this study is to identify the NFI-C isoforms expressed in dental cells/tissues, comparing them to the spliced variants in nondental cells/tissues and to analyze their relative expression levels in various cell types. Using bioinformatics, we analyzed the NFI-C gene structure, identifying 2 potential alternative promoters driving expression of selective mRNA transcripts. Our studies show the expression of 3 NFI-C transcripts with the overall splicing pattern conserved between dental and nondental cells tested. Furthermore, by quantitative real-time PCR analysis, we found that although the relative levels of these transcripts were similar in dental and nondental cells, significant differences were observed within the dental cells tested. These are the first studies to analyze the expression of NFI-C isoforms in dental versus nondental cells/tissues, finding subtle cell-/tissue-specific expression patterns that could explain the dental phenotype of Nfic-/- mice. Copyright © 2008 S. Karger AG.