Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), that have been reported to be present in bone marrow, adipose tissues, dermis, muscles and peripheral blood, have the potential to differentiate along different lineages including those forming bone, cartilage, fat, muscle and neuron. This differentiation potential makes MSC excellent candidates for cell-based tissue engineering. In this study, we have examined phenotypes and gene expression profile of the human adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (ATSC) in the undifferentiated states, and compared with that of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC). ATSC were enzymatically released from adipose tissues from adult human donors and were expanded in monolayer with serial passages at confluence. BMSC were harvested from the metaphysis of adult human femur. Flowcytometric analysis showed that ATSC have a marker expression that is similar to that of BMSC. ATSC expressed CD29, CD44, CD90, CD105 and were absent for HLA-DR and c-kit expression. Under appropriate culture conditions, MSC were induced to differentiate to the osteoblast, adipocyte, and chondrogenic lineages. ATSC were superior to BMSC in respect to maintenance of proliferating ability, and microarray analysis of gene expression revealed differentially expressed genes between ATSC and BMSC. The proliferating ability and differentiation potential of ATSC were variable according to the culture condition. The similarities of the phenotypes and the gene expression profiles between ATSC and BMSC could have broad implications for human tissue engineering.