Bone marrow stromal cells, progenitor cells involved in repair of bone and cartilage, can potentially provide a source for autologous skeletal tissue engineering. We investigated which factors were required to induce in vitro differentiation of avian bone marrow stromal cells into three-dimensional cartilaginous and bone-like tissues. Bone marrow stromal cells from embryonic chicks were expanded in monolayers, seeded onto biodegradable polyglycolic acid scaffolds, and cultured for 4 weeks in orbitally mixed Petri dishes. Cell-polymer constructs developed an organized extracellular matrix containing glycosaminoglycans and collagen, whereas control bone marrow stromal cell pellet cultures were smaller and consisted predominantly of fibrous tissue. Bone marrow stromal cells expanded with fibroblast growth factor-2 and seeded onto polymer scaffolds formed highly homogeneous three-dimensional tissues that contained cartilage-specific molecular markers and had biochemical compositions comparable with avian epiphyseal cartilage. When cell-polymer constructs were cultured in the presence of beta-glycerophosphate and dexamethasone, the extracellular matrix mineralized and bone-specific proteins were expressed. Our work shows that cell expansion in the presence of fibroblast growth factor-2 and cultivation on a three-dimensional polymer scaffold allows differentiation of chick bone marrow stromal cells into three-dimensional cartilaginous tissues. In the in vitro system studied, the same population could be selectively induced to regenerate either cartilaginous or bonelike tissue.