The formation of tooth organs is regulated by a series of developmental programs. We have initiated a genome project with the ultimate goal of identifying novel genes important for tooth development. As an initial approach, we constructed a unidirectional cDNA library from the non-calcified portion of incisors of 3- to 4-week-old rats, sequenced cDNA clones, and classified their sequences by homology search through the GenBank data base and the PIR protein data base. Here, we report partial DNA sequences obtained by automated DNA sequencing on 400 cDNA clones randomly selected from the library. Of the sequences determined, 51% represented sequences of new genes that were not related to any previously reported gene. Twenty-six percent of the clones strongly matched genes and proteins in the data bases, including amelogenin, alpha 1(I) and alpha 2(I) collagen chains, osteonectin, and decorin. Nine percent of clones revealed partial sequence homology to known genes such as transcription factors and cell surface receptors. A significant number of the previously identified genes were expressed redundantly and were found to encode extracellular matrix proteins. Identification and cataloging of cDNA clones in these tissues are the first step toward identification of markers expressed in a tissue- or stage-specific manner, as well as the genetic linkage study of tooth anomalies. Further characterization of the clones described in this paper should lead to the discovery of novel genes important for tooth development.