PURPOSE: Periodontal ligament (PDL) cell differentiation into osteoblasts is important in bone formation. Bone formation is a complex biological process and involves several tightly regulated gene expression patterns of bone-related proteins. The expression patterns of bone related proteins are regulated in a temporal manner both in vivo and in vitro. The aim of this study was to observe the gene expression profile in PDL cell proliferation, differentiation, and mineralization in vitro. METHODS: PDL cells were grown until confluence, which were then designated as day 0, and nodule formation was induced by the addition of 50 microg/mL ascorbic acid, 10 mM beta-glycerophosphate, and 100 nM dexamethasone to the medium. The dishes were stained with Alizarin Red S on days 1, 7, 14, and 21. Real-time polymerase chain reaction was performed for the detection of various genes on days 0, 1, 7, 14, and 21. RESULTS: On day 0 with a confluent monolayer, in the active proliferative stage, c-myc gene expression was observed at its maximal level. On day 7 with a multilayer, alkaline phosphatase, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-2, and BMP-4 gene expression had increased and this was followed by maximal expression of osteocalcin on day 14 with the initiation of nodule mineralization. In relationship to apoptosis, c-fos gene expression peaked on day 21 and was characterized by the post-mineralization stage. Here, various genes were regulated in a temporal manner during PDL fibroblast proliferation, extracellular matrix maturation, and mineralization. The gene expression pattern was similar. CONCLUSIONS: We can speculate that the gene expression pattern occurs during PDL cell proliferation, differentiation, and mineralization. On the basis of these results, it might be possible to understand the various factors that influence PDL cell proliferation, extracellular matrix maturation, and mineralization with regard to gene expression patterns.