Adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) are an abundant, readily available population of multipotent progenitor cells that reside in adipose tissue. Isolated ASCs are typically expanded in monolayer on standard tissue culture plastic with a basal medium containing 10% fetal bovine serum. However, recent data suggest that altering the monolayer expansion conditions by using suspension culture plastic, adding growth factors to the medium, or adjusting the seeding density may affect the self-renewal rate, multipotency, and lineage-specific differentiation potential of the ASCs. We hypothesized that variation in any of these expansion conditions would influence the chondrogenic potential of ASCs. ASCs were isolated from human liposuction waste tissue and expanded through two passages with different tissue culture plastic, feed medium, and cell seeding densities. Once expanded, the cells were cast in an agarose gel and subjected to identical chondrogenic culture conditions for 7 days, at which point cell viability, radiolabel incorporation, and gene expression were measured. High rates of matrix synthesis upon chondrogenic induction were mostly associated with smaller cells, as indicated by cell width and area on tissue culture plastic, and it appears that expansion in a growth factor supplemented medium is important in maintaining this morphology. All end-point measures were highly dependent on the specific monolayer culture conditions. These results support the hypothesis that monolayer culture conditions may “prime” the cells or predispose them towards a specific phenotype and thus underscore the importance of early culture conditions in determining the growth and differentiation potential of ASCs. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008; 99; 986–995. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.