The bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are potent osteogenic molecules that are used for bone repair in delivery systems and in regenerative medicine. We studied the responses of murine MC3T3-E1 preosteoblasts to doses of recombinant human (rh)BMP-9 with and without fetal bovine serum (FBS). rhBMP-2 was used as a control since it is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for bone application. We analyzed the major cell signaling pathways and the expression of osteogenic markers. Without FBS, BMP-9 had a similar effect on MC3T3-E1 preosteoblast differentiation in comparison to BMP-2. In contrast, FBS reduced the EC50 of BMP-9 fourfold to sixfold, as determined by osterix gene expression and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, while it had no influence on EC50 of BMP-2. As suggested by MAPK inhibitor assays, FBS could induce an intracellular signaling environment that favors cell response to BMP-9 by inhibiting ERK1/2 activation and increasing p38 phosphorylation. Finally, IGF-2 (100 ng/mL) could mimic the effect of FBS on BMP-9 cell response in terms of MAPK signaling and ALP activity. Thus, the action of BMP-9 on preosteoblast differentiation can be greatly improved by IGF-2. This finding may well be critical for developing optimal growth factor delivery systems and bone tissue engineering strategies.