Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), bone marrow-derived pluripotent adherent cells of mesenchymal origin can differentiate along the osteogenic, chondrogenic, adipogenic, and tendonogenic lineages. In this report we characterize cytokine and growth factor gene expression by MSCs and investigate the modulation of cytokine expression that occurs during osteogenic and stromal differentiation. MSCs constitutively expressed mRNA for interleukin (IL)-6, IL-11, leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF), and stem cell factor (SCF). MSCs treated with IL-1alpha upregulated mRNA levels of IL-6, IL-11, and LIF, and began to express detectable levels of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). mRNA levels of M-CSF and SCF did not change. MSCs cultured in osteogenic medium differentiated along the osteogenic lineage and downregulated mRNA levels of IL-6, IL-11 and LIF whereas, M-CSF and SCF expression were unchanged and G-CSF and GM-CSF remained undetectable. IL-3 was not detected in MSC culture under any conditions. MSCs precultured in control medium, IL-1alpha, or osteogenic medium maintained similar capacity to support long-term culture initiating cell (LT-CIC). Thus, primary and osteogenic differentiated MSCs produce important hematopoietic cytokines and support hematopoiesis in long-term cultures, suggesting that these cells may provide an excellent ex vivo environment for hematopoiesis during progenitor cell expansion and may be important for in vivo cell therapy.