There is compelling in vivo evidence from reports on human genetic mutations and transgenic mice that some microRNAs (miRNAs) play an important functional role in regulating skeletal development and growth. A number of published in vitro studies also point toward a role for miRNAs in controlling chondrocyte gene expression and differentiation. However, information on miRNAs that may regulate a specific phase of chondrocyte differentiation (i.e. production of progenitor, differentiated or hypertrophic chondrocytes) is lacking. To attempt to bridge this knowledge gap, we have investigated miRNA expression patterns in human embryonic cartilage tissue. Specifically, a developmental time point was selected, prior to endochondral ossification in the embryonic limb, to permit analysis of three distinct populations of chondrocytes. The location of chondroprogenitor cells, differentiated chondrocytes and hypertrophic chondrocytes in gestational day 54-56 human embryonic limb tissue sections was confirmed both histologically and by specific collagen expression patterns. Laser capture microdissection was utilized to separate the three chondrocyte populations and a miRNA profiling study was carried out using TaqMan® OpenArray® Human MicroRNA Panels (Applied Biosystems®). Here we report on abundantly expressed miRNAs in human embryonic cartilage tissue and, more importantly, we have identified miRNAs that are significantly differentially expressed between precursor, differentiated and hypertrophic chondrocytes by 2-fold or more. Some of the miRNAs identified in this study have been described in other aspects of cartilage or bone biology, while others have not yet been reported in chondrocytes. Finally, a bioinformatics approach was applied to begin to decipher developmental cellular pathways that may be regulated by groups of differentially expressed miRNAs during distinct stages of chondrogenesis. Data obtained from this work will serve as an important resource of information for the field of cartilage biology and will enhance our understanding of miRNA-driven mechanisms regulating cartilage and endochondral bone development, regeneration and repair.