The human osteosarcoma cell line Saos-2 is widely used as a model system for human osteoblastic cells, though its phenotypic stability has not been ascertained. We therefore propagated these cells over 100 passages and compared relevant phenotypic properties. In general, higher passage cells exhibited higher proliferation rates and lower specific alkaline phosphatase activities, though mineralization was significantly more pronounced in cultures of late passage cells. Whereas expression of most genes investigated did not vary profoundly, some genes exhibited remarkable differences. Decorin, for instance, that has been discussed as a regulator of proliferation and mineralization, is strongly expressed only in early passage cells, and two receptors for pleiotrophin and midkine exhibited an almost mutually exclusive expression pattern in early and late passage cells, respectively. Our observations indicate that special care is required when results obtained with Saos-2 cells with different culture history are to be compared.