Human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hBM-MSCs) continue to draw attention of researchers in the fields of basic science and medicine due to their indispensible regenerative, reparative, angiogenic, anti-apoptotic, and immunosuppressive properties, all of which collectively point out their enormous therapeutic potential. There is still, however, a need for further investigation of their characteristics to broaden their field of use and learn much more about how to control their fate and improve their therapeutic effectiveness. hBM-MSCs were extensively characterized in terms of their growth characteristics, genetic stability, and differentiation capability to the mesodermal and ectodermal cell lineages; a special emphasis was given to their phenotypic and ultrastructural properties. Expression of embryonic stem cell markers Oct4, Rex-1, FoxD-3, Sox2, and Nanog was shown with real-time PCR. Transmission electron microscopy revealed the ultrastructural characteristics of hBM-MSCs; they had pale, irregularly shaped and large euchromatic nuclei, and two distinct areas in their cytoplasm: an intensely stained inner zone rich in mitochondria and rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER) with dilated cisternae and a relatively peripheral zone poor in organelles. hBM-MSCs expressed adipogenic (adipophilin and PPAR gamma), myogenic (desmin, myogenin, alpha-SMA), neurogenic (gamma-enolase, MAP2a, b, c-fos, nestin, NF-H, NF-L, GFAP, beta 3-tubulin), osteogenic (osteonectin, osteocalcin, osteopontin, Runx-2, type I collagen), and chondrogenic (type II collagen, SOX9) markers either at RNA or protein level even under basal conditions, without any stimulation towards differentiation. The differentiation potential of hBM-MSCs to adipogenic, osteogenic, and neurogenic lineages was shown by using the relevant differentiation factors. J. Cell. Physiol. 226: 1367-1382, 2011. (C) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.