Immortalized cells are often used to model the behavior of osteogenic cells on orthopaedic and dental biomaterials. In the current study we compared the adhesive behavior of two osteosarcoma cell lines, MG-63 and Saos-2, with that of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on hydroxyapatite (HA). It was found that osteosarcoma cells demonstrated maximal binding to fibronectin-coated HA, while MSCs alternately preferred HA coated with collagen-I. Interesting, the binding of MG-63 and Saos-2 cells to fibronectin was mediated by both α5 and αv-containing integrin heterodimers, whereas only αv integrins were used by MSCs. Cell spreading was also markedly different for the three cell types. Osteosarcoma cells exhibited optimal spreading on fibronectin, but poor spreading on HA disks coated with fetal bovine serum. In contrast, MSCs spread very well on serum-coated surfaces, but less extensively on fibronectin. Finally, we evaluated integrin expression and found that MSCs have higher levels of α2 integrin subunits relative to MG-63 or Saos-2 cells, which may explain the enhanced adhesion of MSCs on collagen-coated HA. Collectively our results suggest that osteosarcoma cells utilize different mechanisms than MSCs during initial attachment to protein-coated HA, thereby calling into question the suitability of these cell lines as in vitro models for cell/biomaterial interactions. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.