Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) differentiate into numerous different cell types and thus have therapeutic potential for tissue engineering, anti‑inflammatory and immunomodulatory purposes. FGF2 may affect the biological behavior of MSCs. MSCs were transduced with either adenovirus‑null vector/green fluorescent protein (GFP) or a vector encoding for the overexpression of FGF2/GFP. The expression of FGF2 was demonstrated to be significantly higher in MSC (FGF2) compared with MSC (vector) by qPCR and western blot analysis. In order to investigate the function of FGF2 in MSCs over time, it was observed that FGF2 stimulates cell proliferation and induces cell differentiation by activating the mitogen‑activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway. Following blockade of the FGF2‑induced activation of the extracellular signal‑regulated kinase pathway by overexpression of sprouty isoforms, the marker of differentiation markedly decreased. Altogether, the results demonstrated a novel cell biological mechanism that FGF2 differentiates into tenocytes and the MAPK pathway is key in differentiation.