Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) of the spine is characterized by heterotopic bone formation occurring in spinal ligament, causing severe compression myelopathy. In order to investigate the mechanism of OPLL development, we isolated spinal ligament cells from OPLL patients as well as non-OPLL patients, and established 10 OPLL cell lines and 7 non-OPLL cell lines, respectively. We analyzed the effects of bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) on these cells with respect to alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity, DNA synthesis, and collagen production. BMP-2 caused a significant increase of AP activity in 4 OPLL cell lines, whereas the activity did not change in any non-OPLL cells. Among OPLL cells, BMP-2 stimulated DNA synthesis in four cell lines and procollagen type I carboxyl-terminal peptide (PICP) synthesis in five cell lines. Some non-OPLL cells also responded to BMP-2, as there was an increase of DNA synthesis in three cell lines and PICP synthesis in one cell line. These data collectively indicate that BMP-2 preferentially induces osteogenic differentiation in OPLL cells rather than in non-OPLL cells. OPLL cells, therefore, exhibit a different response to BMP-2 than non-OPLL cells, suggesting that the expression of BMP receptor(s) and/or the signal transduction initiated by BMP-2 in the spinal ligament cells of OPLL patients somewhat deviate from those in normal spinal ligament cells. Such abnormal characteristics of OPLL cells as described here provide some clues to the clarification of the pathogenesis of OPLL.