Successful osseointegration of an implant depends on the properties of the material of which it is made. A standardized cell culture system for the assessment of the biological effect of material surfaces has already been described. In the present study, this system has been extended to include the quantitative analysis of the material-dependent osteoblast gene expression. Human foetal osteoblasts (hFOB 1.19) were cultured for 3 weeks on titanium surfaces of varying roughness, and on surfaces of chromium-cobalt-molybdenum alloy (CrCoMo). Using a real time RT-PCR technique, expressions of alkaline phosphatase, collagen 1 and osteocalcin were determined as parameters of osteoblast differentiation. In comparison with CrCoMo, differentiation was accelerated on titanium. While the smooth titanium surface leads to earlier cell growth, the rough surface induces more prolonged and stronger cell proliferation. Our results confirm at the molecular level the excellent clinical biocompatibility of titanium surfaces. The real-time RT-PCR provides a new method for the quantitative assessment of material-dependent osteoblastic differentiation.