The extent of the influence of mesenchymal tissue on epithelial development is still debated, and elucidation of epithelialmesenchymal interactions should be of relevance for controlling normal as well as pathological growth and development. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the influence of the mesenchymal cell type on oral mucosa epithelial development in vitro, using tissue-engineering principles, by including three different sources for mesenchymal cell type, viz. oral mucosa, skin and cornea, each of them presenting a distinct type of epithelium in situ. We investigated epithelialmesenchymal interactions, considering both morphological criteria and protein expression (filaggrin, keratin 10, keratin 12, keratin 13 and laminin 5). The results of the histology, immunohistochemistry and transmission electron microscopy of the three types of tissue-engineered constructs composed of mesenchymal cells of different sources (oral, dermal and corneal fibroblasts) and of the same oral epithelial cells showed that the mesenchymal cell source had a significant influence on the thickness and ultrastructure of the epithelium, but not on the differentiation of oral epithelial cells, which might be an intrinsic property of these cells due to their genetic programming. Copyright (c) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.