The morphogenesis and cell differentiation in developing teeth is governed by interactions between the oral epithelium and neural crest-derived ectomesenchyme. The fibroblast growth factors FGF-4, -8, and -9 have been implicated as epithelial signals regulating mesenchymal gene expression and cell proliferation during tooth initiation and later during epithelial folding morphogenesis and the establishment of tooth shape. To further evaluate the roles of FGFs in tooth development, we analyzed the roles of FGF-3, FGF-7, and FGF-10 in developing mouse teeth. In situ hybridization analysis showed developmentally regulated expression during tooth formation for Fgf-3 and Fgf-10 that was mainly restricted to the dental papilla mesenchymal cells. Fgf-7 transcripts were restricted to the developing bone surrounding the developing tooth germ. Fgf-10 expression was observed in the presumptive dental epithelium and mesenchyme during tooth initiation, whereas Fgf-3 expression appeared in the dental mesenchyme at the late bud stage. During the cap and bell stage, both Fgf-3 and Fgf-10 were intensely expressed in the dental papilla mesenchymal cells both in incisors and molars. It is of interest that Fgf-3 expression was also observed in the primary enamel knot, a putative signaling center of the tooth, whereas no transcripts were seen in the secondary enamel knots that appear in the tips of future cusps of the bell stage tooth germs. Down-regulation of Fgf-3 and Fgf-10 expression in postmitotic odontoblasts correlated with the terminal differentiation of the odontoblasts and the neighboring ameloblasts. In the incisors, mesenchymal cells of the cervical loop area showed partially overlapping expression patterns for all studied Fgfs. In vitro analyses showed that expression of Fgf-3 and Fgf-10 in the dental mesenchyme was dependent on dental epithelium and that epithelially expressed FGFs, FGF-4 and -8 induced Fgf-3 but not Fgf-10 expression in the isolated dental mesenchyme. Beads soaked in Shh, BMP-2, and TGF-β1 protein did not induce either Fgf-3 or Fgf-10 expression. Cells expressing Wnt-6 did not induce Fgf-10 expression. Furthermore, FGF-10 protein stimulated cell proliferation in the dental epithelium but not in the mesenchyme. These results suggest that FGF-3 and FGF-10 have redundant functions as mesenchymal signals regulating epithelial morphogenesis of the tooth and that their expressions appear to be differentially regulated. In addition, FGF-3 may participate in signaling functions of the primary enamel knot. The dynamic expression patterns of different Fgfs in dental epithelium and mesenchyme and their interactions suggest existence of regulatory signaling cascades between epithelial and mesenchymal FGFs during tooth development. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.