Recent evidence has demonstrated that neural stem cells (NSC) can be expanded from a variety of sources, including embryos, fetuses, and adult bone marrow and brain tissue. We have previously reported the generation of adult rat bone marrow-derived cellular spheres that are morphologically and phenotypically similar to neurospheres derived from brain NSC. Here we show that adult human bone marrow-derived neural stem cells (HBM-NSC) are capable of generating spheres that are similar to brain neural-derived neurospheres. Additionally, we sought to promote proliferation and differentiation of HBM-NSC through transduction with nonreplicative recombinant adenovirus encoding the cDNA sequence for Gli, rADV-Gli-1; sonic hedgehog, rADV-Shh; or Nurr1, rADV-Nurr1. Immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR analysis showed that HBM-NSC could be efficiently expanded and differentiated in vitro and that HBM-NSC transduced with rADV-Gli-1 or rADV-Shh dramatically increased NSC time-related proliferation; however, Nurr1 had no effect on proliferation. We also transplanted HBM-NSC into chicken embryos to examine their potential function in vivo. We found that transduction of HBM-NSC with rADV-Gli-1 or rADV-Shh and subsequent transplantation into chicken embryos increased HBM-NSC proliferation, whereas rADV-Nurr1 promoted migration and differentiation in vivo. Our findings suggest that HBM-NSC can be efficiently expanded and differentiated in vitro and in vivo by overexpressing Gli-1, Shh or Nurr1. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.