As the number of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines increases, so does the need for systematic evaluation of each line's characteristics and potential. Comparisons between lines are complicated by variations in culture conditions, feeders, spontaneous differentiation, and the absence of standardized assays. These difficulties, combined with the inability of most labs to maintain more than a few lines simultaneously, compel the development of reference standards to which hESC lines can be compared. The use of a stable cell line as a reference standard offers many advantages. A line with a relatively unchanging hESC-like gene and protein expression pattern could be a positive control for developing assays. It can be used as a reference for genomics or proteomics studies, especially for normalizing results obtained in separate laboratories. Such a cell line should be widely available without intellectual property restraints, easily cultured without feeders, and resistant to spontaneous changes in phenotype. We propose that the embryonal carcinoma (EC) line 2102Ep meets these requirements. We compared the protein, gene, and microRNA expression of this cell line with those of hESC lines and alternative reference lines such as the EC line NTERA-2 and the karyotypically abnormal hESC line BG01V. The overall expression profiles of all these lines were similar, with exceptions reflecting the germ cell origins of EC. On the basis of global gene and microRNA expression, 2102Ep is somewhat less similar to hESC than the alternatives; however, 2102Ep expresses more hESC-associated microRNAs than NTERA-2 does, and fewer markers of differentiated fates.