In the search for a cell marker useful for studying tooth development, immunohistochemical studies using antibodies against cytokeratin 14 (K14), c-Met/hepatocyte growth factor receptor and amelogenin were carried out in the developing tooth of the newborn rat and in primary cultured cells of the ameloblast lineage, including inner enamel epithelium cells, preameloblasts and ameloblasts, prepared from the mandibular incisors of postnatal 7-day-old rats. The appearance of K14 was cell- and differentiation-stage specific, i.e. there was a weak expression signal within inner enamel epithelial cells that were in the proliferating stage, and there were strong signals within preameloblasts and ameloblasts that were in the post-proliferating and amelogenesis stages, respectively. In the culture system, c-Met appeared in all cells, whereas K14 and amelogenin appeared mainly in clustered cells that were considered to be in the post-proliferating stage. K14 was detected earlier than amelogenin, and it was also confirmed by immunofluorostaining that c-Met, K14 and amelogenin were coexpressed in ameloblasts. These findings indicate that K14 is a good new marker for ameloblast-lineage cells during rat tooth development both in vivo and in vitro.