The process of bone growth, regeneration, and remodeling is mediated, in part, by the immediate cell-matrix environment. Osteoblast stimulating factor-1 (OSF-1), more commonly known as pleiotrophin (PTN), is an extracellular matrix-associated protein, present in matrices, which act as targets for the deposition of new bone. However, the actions of PTN on human bone progenitor cells remain unknown. We examined the effects of PTN on primary human bone marrow stromal cells chemotaxis, differentiation, and colony formation (colony forming unit-fibroblastic) in vitro, and in particular, growth and differentiation on three-dimensional biodegradable porous scaffolds adsorbed with PTN in vivo. Primary human bone marrow cells were cultured on tissue culture plastic or poly(DL-lactic acid-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA; 75:25) porous scaffolds with or without addition of recombinant human PTN (1 pg-50 ng/ml) in basal and osteogenic conditions. Negligible cellular growth was observed on PLGA scaffold alone, generated using a super-critical fluid mixing method. PTN (50 μg/ml) was chemotactic to human osteoprogenitors and stimulated total colony formation, alkaline phosphatase-positive colony formation, and alkaline phosphatase-specific activity at concentrations as low as 10 pg/ml compared with control cultures. The effects were time-dependent. On three-dimensional scaffolds adsorbed with PTN, alkaline phosphatase activity, type I collagen formation, and synthesis of cbfa-1, osteocalcin, and PTN were observed by immunocytochemistry and PTN expression by in situ hybridization. PTN-adsorbed constructs showed morphologic evidence of new bone matrix and cartilage formation after subcutaneous implantation as well as within diffusion chambers implanted into athymic mice. In summary, PTN has the ability to promote adhesion, migration, expansion, and differentiation of human osteoprogenitor cells, and these results indicate the potential to develop protocols for de novo bone formation for skeletal repair that exploit cell-matrix interactions.