Human ES (hES) cell lines have only recently been generated, and differences between human and mouse ES cells have been identified. In this manuscript we describe the properties of two human ES cell lines, BG01 and BG02. By immunocytochemistry and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, undifferentiated cells expressed markers that are characteristic of ES cells, including SSEA-3, SSEA-4, TRA-1-60, TRA-1-81, and OCT-3/4. Both cell lines were readily maintained in an undifferentiated state and could differentiate into cells of all three germ layers, as determined by expression of beta-tubulin III neuron-specific molecule (ectoderm), cardiac troponin I (cardiomyocytes, mesoderm), and alpha-fetoprotein (endoderm). A large-scale microarray (16,659 genes) analysis identified 373 genes that were expressed at three-fold or higher levels in undifferentiated BG01 and BG02 cells as compared with pooled human RNA. Ninety-two of these genes were also highly expressed in four other hES lines (TE05, GE01, GE09, and pooled samples derived from GE01, GE09, and GE07). Included in the list are genes involved in cell signaling and development, metabolism, transcription regulation, and many hypothetical proteins. Two focused arrays designed to examine transcripts associated with stem cells and with the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily were employed to examine differentially expressed genes. Several growth factors, receptors, and components of signaling pathways that regulate embryonic development, in particular the nodal signaling pathway, were detected in both BG01 and BG02. These data provide a detailed characterization and an initial gene expression profile for the BG01 and BG02 human ES cell lines.