Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a heterogeneous group of hematologic malignancies. Although most MDS patients have normal or increased BM cellularity (NH-MDS), some have hypocellular BM (h-MDS). The reports concerning the differences in genetic alterations between h-MDS and NH-MDS patients are limited. In this study, 369 MDS patients diagnosed according to the WHO 2008 criteria were recruited. h-MDS patients had lower PB white blood cell and blast counts, and lower BM blast percentages, than those with NH-MDS. h-MDS was closely associated with lower-risk MDS, defined by the International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) and revised IPSS (IPSS-R). IPSS-R could properly predict the prognosis in h-MDS (P<0.001) as in NH-MDS patients. The h-MDS patients had lower incidences of RUNX1, ASXL1, DNMT3A, EZH2 and TP53 mutations than NH-MDS patients. The cumulated incidence of acute leukemic transformation at 5 years was 19.3% for h-MDS and 40.4% for NH-MDS patients (P= 0.001). Further, the patients with h-MDS had longer overall survival (OS) than those with NH-MDS (P= 0.001), and BM hypocellularity remains an independent favorable prognostic factor for OS irrespective of age, IPSS-R, and gene mutations. Our findings provide evidence that h-MDS indeed represent a distinct clinico-biological subgroup of MDS and can predict better leukemia-free survival and OS.