The International Stem Cell Initiative characterized 59 human embryonic stem cell lines from 17 laboratories worldwide. Despite diverse genotypes and different techniques used for derivation and maintenance, all lines exhibited similar expression patterns for several markers of human embryonic stem cells. They expressed the glycolipid antigens SSEA3 and SSEA4, the keratan sulfate antigens TRA-1-60, TRA-1-81, GCTM2 and GCT343, and the protein antigens CD9, Thy1 (also known as CD90), tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase and class 1 HLA, as well as the strongly developmentally regulated genes NANOG, POU5F1 (formerly known as OCT4), TDGF1, DNMT3B, GABRB3 and GDF3. Nevertheless, the lines were not identical: differences in expression of several lineage markers were evident, and several imprinted genes showed generally similar allele-specific expression patterns, but some gene-dependent variation was observed. Also, some female lines expressed readily detectable levels of XIST whereas others did not. No significant contamination of the lines with mycoplasma, bacteria or cytopathic viruses was detected.