A growing body of data suggests that the bone marrow stroma contains a population of pluripotent cells capable of differentiating into adipocytes, osteoblasts, and lymphohematopoietic supporting cells. In this work, the murine stromal cell lines BMS2 and +/+ 2.4 have been examined as preadipocytes and adipocytes for evidence of osteoblastic gene expression. Adipocyte differentiation has been quantitated using fluorescence activated cell sorting. Within 7–10 days of adipocyte induction by treatment with glucocorticoids, indomethacin, and methylisobutylxanthine, between 40% to 50% of the cells contain lipid vacuoles and exhibit a characteristic adipocyte morphology. Based on immunocytochemistry, both the adipocytes and preadipocytes express a number of osteoblastic markers; these include alkaline phosphatase, osteopontin, collagen (I, III), bone sialoprotein II, and fibronectin. Based on biochemical assays, the level of alkaline phosphatase expression is not significantly different between preadipocyte and adipocyte cells. However, unlike rat cell lines, dexamethasone exposure causes a dose-dependent decrease in enzyme activity. The steady-state mRNA levels of the osteoblast associated genes varies during the process of adiopogenesis. The relative level of collagen I and collagen III mRNA is lower in adipocyte-induced cells when compared to the uninduced controls. Osteocalcin mRNA is detected in preadipocytes but absent in adipocytes. These data indicate that osteoblastic gene expression is detected in cells capable of undergoing adipocyte differentiation, consistent with the hypothesis that these cell lineages are interrelated. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.