Osteoporosis is a bone disease that leads to an increased risk of fracture. Oxidative stress may play a major role in the development of osteoporosis in part by inhibiting osteoblastic differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs). Some evidence suggested that antioxidant selenium could prevent osteoporosis, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. In this work, the effect of sodium selenite on H₂O₂-induced inhibition of osteoblastic differentiation of primary rat bone MSCs and the related mechanisms were examined. Pretreatment with selenite inhibited the adverse effect of H₂O₂ on osteoblastic differentiation of MSCs, based on alkaline phosphatase activity, gene expression of type I collagen and osteocalcin, and matrix mineralization. In addition, selenite pretreatment also suppressed the activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) induced by H₂O₂. The above effects were mediated by the antioxidant effect of selenite. Selenite enhanced the gene expression and activity of glutathione peroxidase, reversed the decreased total antioxidant capacity and reduced glutathione, and suppressed reactive oxygen species production and lipid peroxidation level in H₂O₂-treated MSCs. These results showed that selenite protected MSCs against H₂O₂-induced inhibition of osteoblastic differentiation through inhibiting oxidative stress and ERK activation, which provided, for the first time, the mechanistic explanation for the negative association of selenium status and risk of osteoporosis in terms of bone formation.