To identify genes that may be involved in the process of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) differentiation, we profiled gene expression by expressed sequenced tag (EST) enumeration and massively parallel signature sequencing (MPSS) using RNA samples from feeder-free cultures of undifferentiated (passages 40-50) and differentiated (day 14) H1, H7, and H9 lines. MPSS and EST scan analysis showed good concordance and identified a large number of genes that changed rapidly as cultures transition from a pluripotent to a differentiated state. These included known and unknown ES cell-specific genes as well as a large number of known genes that were altered as cells differentiate. A subset of genes that were either up- or down-regulated were selected and their differential expression confirmed by a variety of independent methods, including comparison of expression after further differentiation, publicly available databases, and direct assessments by reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR and immunocytochemistry. The analysis identified markers unique to the hESC and embryoid bodies (hEBs) stage as well as signaling pathways that likely regulate differentiation. The data generated can be used to monitor the state of hESC isolated by different laboratories using independent methods and maintained under differing culture conditions.