We have examined the expression and localization of connexin 43 (CX43) in rat incisor odontoblasts using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. The CX43 gene was expressed in odontoblasts, and levels of gene expression increased throughout the course of development. In contrast, CX43 was down-regulated at an incisal segment. In situ hybridization analysis showed no positive signal for CX43 RNA in the cytoplasm of differentiating dental papilla cells, but faint positive signals for CX43 RNA were observed in early pre-odontoblasts. Those signals were more intense in young and in old odontoblasts, but were less in short odontoblasts. CX43 could not be detected in differentiating dental papilla cells or in early pre-odontoblasts by immunohistochemical localization, but a positive reaction was found in the late pre-odontoblast stage where predentin had been produced. The positivity gradually increased during odontoblast maturation, and was highest in the layer of old odontoblasts. These results indicate that odontoblasts that secrete actively dentin matrix components are tightly in contact with each other by gap junctions as suggested by the intense CX43.