The TWIST family of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors, Twist-1 and Dermo-1 are known mediators of mesodermal tissue development and contribute to correct patterning of the skeleton. In this study, we demonstrate that freshly purified human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSC) express high levels of Twist-1 and Dermo-1 which are downregulated following ex vivo expansion. Enforced expression of Twist-1 or Dermo-1 in human MSC cultures increased expression of the MSC marker, STRO-1, and the early osteogenic transcription factors, Runx2 and Msx2. Conversely, overexpression of Twist-1 and Dermo-1 was associated with a decrease in the gene expression of osteoblast-associated markers, bone morphogenic protein-2, bone sialoprotein, osteopontin, alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin. High expressing Twist-1 or Dermo-1 MSC lines exhibited an enhanced proliferative potential of approximately 2.5-fold compared with control MSC populations that were associated with elevated levels of Id-1 and Id-2 gene expression. Functional studies demonstrated that high expressing Twist-1 and Dermo-1 MSC displayed a decreased capacity for osteo/chondrogenic differentiation and an enhanced capacity to undergo adipogenesis. These findings implicate the TWIST gene family members as potential mediators of MSC self-renewal and lineage commitment in postnatal skeletal tissues by exerting their effects on genes involved in the early stages of bone development.