In this study multipotent adipose-derived stem cells isolated from human adipose tissue (hMADS cells) were shown to differentiate into adipose cells in serum-free, chemically defined medium. During the differentiation process, hMADS cells exhibited a gene expression pattern similar to that described for rodent clonal preadipocytes and human primary preadipocytes. Differentiated cells displayed the key features of human adipocytes, i.e., expression of specific molecular markers, lipolytic response to agonists of beta-adrenoreceptors (beta2-AR agonist > beta1-AR agonist >> beta3-AR agonist) and to the atrial natriuretic peptide, insulin-stimulated glucose transport, and secretion of leptin and adiponectin. hMADS cells were able to respond to drugs as inhibition of adipocyte differentiation was observed in the presence of prostaglandin F2alpha, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, and nordihydroguaiaretic acid, a natural polyhydroxyphenolic antioxidant. Thus, for the first time, human adipose cells with normal karyotype and indefinite life span have been established. They represent a novel and valuable tool for studies of fat tissue development and metabolism.