Valproic acid (VPA) has been used as an anticonvulsant agent for the treatment of epilepsy, as well as a mood stabilizer for the treatment of bipolar disorder, for several decades. The mechanism of action for these effects remains to be elucidated and is most likely multifactorial. Recently, VPA has been reported to inhibit histone deacetylase (HDAC) and HDAC has been reported to play roles in differentiation of mammalian cells. In this study, the effects of HDAC inhibitors on differentiation and proliferation of human adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (hADSC) and bone marrow stromal cells (hBMSC) were determined. VPA increased osteogenic differentiation in a dose dependent manner. The pretreatment of VPA before induction of differentiation also showed stimulatory effects on osteogenic differentiation of hMSC. Trichostatin A (TSA), another HDAC inhibitor, also increased osteogenic differentiation, whereas valpromide (VPM), a structural analog of VPA which does not possess HDAC inhibitory effects, did not show any effect on osteogenic differentiation on hADSC. RT-PCR and Real-time PCR analysis revealed that VPA treatment increased osterix, osteopontin, BMP-2, and Runx2 expression. The addition of noggin inhibited VPA-induced potentiation of osteogenic differentiation. VPA inhibited proliferation of hADSC and hBMSC. Our results suggest that VPA enhance osteogenic differentiation, probably due to inhibition of HDAC, and could be useful for in vivo bone engineering using hMSC. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.