Bone sialoprotein (BSP) and osteopontin (OPN) are two phosphorylated and highly glycosylated cell-binding proteins in bone. Both proteins bind to hydroxylapatite. The cell binding is mediated via an Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) sequence and previous work indicates that both proteins can bind to the vitronectin receptor (alpha v beta 3). The present work shows that a prevailing localization of BSP in metaphyseal bone of the young rat is at the interface between calcified cartilage and bone. Thus BSP shows a conspicuous enrichment in the osteoid laid down by the invading osteoblasts immediately next to the calcified cartilage. Furthermore, the most prominent amount of BSP mRNA was detected in cells at the epiphyseal/metaphyseal border. As opposed to OPN, no prominent accumulation of BSP immunoreactivity was observed at bone surfaces that face cells. Also the synthesis OPN was most pronounced at sites very different from those of BSP. Thus, the most prominent amount of OPN mRNA was observed in cells close to the metaphyseal/diaphyseal border, where osteoclastic bone resorption is particularly active. Indeed, message was often found in cells surrounding osteoclasts without any detectable message. The distinctly different patterns of synthesis and expression of the two proteins indicate different roles in bone turnover at this stage of development. Thus, it appears that BSP has a specific role during the initial phases of bone formation at the cartilage/bone interface. On the other hand, the pattern of OPN synthesis and expression support and extend our previous data showing OPN particularly enriched at attachment sites of osteoclasts resorbing bone.