Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), particularly BMP9, have been shown to promote the osteogenic differentiation of murine multilineage cells (MMCs) and to promote bone formation in bone diseases; however, the mechanisms involved remain poorly understood. MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) have been proven to regulate mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) differentiation. In this study, we identified a novel mechanism that unravels the functional axis of a key miRNA (miR-21) which contributes to BMP9‑induced osteogenic differentiation. We screened differentially expressed miRNAs in MMCs during BMP9‑induced osteogenic differentiation and found that miR-21 was significantly upregulated by BMP9 during the osteogenesis of MMCs. Furthermore, miR-21 was confirmed to promote the osteogenic differentiation of the MMCs by suppressing Smad7, which negatively regulates the osteogenic differentiation of MMCs. The upregulation of miR-21 may promote the osteogenic differentiation of MMCs in synergy with BMP9. The findings of our study revealed a novel function of miR-21, and suggest that the overexpression of miR-21 contributes to bone formation by promoting BMP9‑induced osteogenic differentiation. Our data may provide a molecular basis for the development of novel therapeutic strategies to treat bone diseases, such as osteoporosis and other inflammatory bone diseases.