We previously examined the development of the mouse mandible, and demonstrated that odontogenesis occurs between embryonic day 10.5 (E10.5) and E12. Based on the histological findings, we performed cDNA subtraction between the E10.5 and E12 mandibles to detect any differentially expressed genes which might be involved in the initiation of odontogenesis. By sequencing, homology search and semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), we thus found Pgk-1, Ccte, Hsp86, Nucleolin, Hsc73, Frg1, N-ras, Set alpha and Hsj2 from the E10.5 mandible, and E25, ATPase6, Mum2, Thymosin beta4 and L21 from the E12 mandible to be differentially expressed genes. These genes are functionally related to protein transport, signal transduction, transcription, translation and molecular chaperon activity. In situ hybridization analyses of Set alpha and E25 showed that Set alpha was detected in the tooth germ at E12 and E14.5, thus indicating a close relationship of this gene to odontogenesis. Meanwhile, the in situ signal of E25 was found in the muscular layer of the tongue, thus suggesting E25 to be related to the differentiation of muscular tissue. In conclusion, we found 15 differentially expressed genes in the course of the early developmental stage of the mouse mandible using a combination of the cDNA subtraction and semi-quantitative RT-PCR methods, while in addition, two genes were demonstrated to be related to the initiation and the development of both tooth germ and the tongue according to the in situ hybridization technique.