Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a heterogeneous population of stem/progenitor cells with pluripotent capacity to differentiate into mesodermal and non-mesodermal cell lineages, including osteocytes, adipocytes, chondrocytes, myocytes, cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, epithelial cells, and neurons. MSCs reside primarily in the bone marrow, but also exist in other sites such as adipose tissue, peripheral blood, cord blood, liver, and fetal tissues. When stimulated by specific signals, these cells can be released from their niche in the bone marrow into circulation and recruited to the target tissues where they undergo in situ differentiation and contribute to tissue regeneration and homeostasis. Several characteristics of MSCs, such as the potential to differentiate into multiple lineages and the ability to be expanded ex vivo while retaining their original lineage differentiation commitment, make these cells very interesting targets for potential therapeutic use in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. The feasibility for transplantation of primary or engineered MSCs as cell-based therapy has been demonstrated. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the signals that control trafficking and differentiation of MSCs. J. Cell. Biochem. 106: 984–991, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.