Clinical observations suggest that the onset and severity of glucocorticoid (GC) induced osteoporosis is dependent on the duration of the GC treatment and the applied GC compound. To test whether these in vivo observations are reflected by different in vitro effects of various synthetic GCs on human bone cell metabolism we isolated human osteoblast-like cells (HOC) from bone biopsies of healthy (no clinical symptoms of arthritis or arthrosis) adults who underwent selective orthopedic surgery. HOC were identified as bone cells by 1,25-vitamin D3-stimulated increase of specific alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, secretion of osteocalcin and type-I procollagen peptide, and the ability to form mineral in vitro. We investigated the effects of dexamethasone (dexa), methylprednisolone (mpred), prednisolone (pred), and deflazacort (defla) on DNA-synthesis, ALP, and osteocalcin (OC)- and type-I procollagen peptide secretion of HOC in vitro. In summary, (1) GC exposure stimulates DNA synthesis after 6-12 hour treatment periods; (2) dex and mpred strongly inhibit DNA (48-hour treatment) and collagen synthesis but stimulate ALP, whereas pred and defla exhibit smaller effects on DNA synthesis, ALP, and collagen production; and (3) all tested glucocorticoids inhibit OC secretion by HOC in vitro. Thus, the effect of GC on DNA synthesis of HOC varies with the duration of GC exposure, and dex and mpred more potently affect HOC metabolism in vitro than pred and defla.