The periodontal ligament (PDL) is a fibrous and cellular connective tissue that mediates tooth attachment to bone, and it comprises fibroblastic and mineralized tissue-forming (MTF) progenitors. The MTF progenitors are believed to give rise to the cementoblastic and osteoblastic lineages. Cementum attachment protein (CAP) is a collagenous cementum-derived protein which binds strongly to osteoblasts, moderately to PDL cells, and weakly to gingival fibroblasts. The aim of the present study was to determine the relationship between the capacity of PDL progenitors to bind CAP and their potential to express alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and form mineralized-like tissue in culture. Cloned human PDL progenitor populations obtained from nine human donors were assayed for their constitutive capacity to bind CAP and express ALP, and for the dexamethasone-induced potential to form mineralized- like tissue in culture in the presence of ascorbic acid and β- glycerophosphate. Forty percent of the progenitor clones produced mineralized-like tissue. Two patterns of mineralization were observed: a spread and fiat pattern similar to that produced by human bone cells in culture and a nodular ridge-like type resembling that formed by human cementoma-derived cells. A direct correlation was found between the percentage of ALP positive cells in each progenitor clone and the amount of mineralized-like tissue formed (r = 0.565). Similar correlations were found between the number of ALP positive cells and the binding capacity of each clone (r = 0.392) and between the CAP binding capacity and mineralized-like tissue formation (r = 0.584). Multiple regression analysis indicated that the constitutive capacity of a done to bind CAP and express ALP is directly correlated to its dexamethasone-induced potential to form mineralized tissue (r = 0.675). These results indicate that CAP binding and ALP expression can serve as markers for the identification of MTF progenitors in the heterogeneous cultured population of the human periodontal ligament. These data show for the first time that binding capacity to extracellular components of mineralized tissues can be a marker for mineralized tissue- forming progenitors.