Early osteoclast precursors, in the form of murine bone marrow macrophages (BMMs), while expressing no detectable alpha(v)beta3 integrin, contain abundant alpha(v)beta5 and attach to matrix in an alpha(v) integrin-dependent manner. Furthermore, alpha(v)beta5 expression by osteoclast precursors progressively falls as they assume the resorptive phenotype. We find the osteoclastogenic agent, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, (TNF) down-regulates alpha(v)beta5 expression by BMMS via attenuation of beta5 messenger RNA (mRNA) t1/2. Using BMMs from TNF receptor knockout mice we establish the p55 receptor transmits the beta5 suppressive effect. The functional implications of TNF-mediated alpha(v)beta5 down-regulation are underscored by the capacity of an alpha(v) inhibitory peptide mimetic to prevent spreading by BMMs expressing abundant alpha(v)beta5 while failing to impact those in which the integrin has been diminished by TNF. Finally, beta5 mRNA in BMMs of wild-type mice administered lipopolysaccharide (LPS) progressively falls with time of in vivo treatment. Alternatively, beta5 mRNA does not decline in BMMs of LPS-treated mice lacking both TNF receptors, documenting down-regulation of the beta5 integrin subunit, in vivo, is mediated by TNF. Thus, matrix attachment of osteoclast precursors and mature osteoclasts are governed by distinct alpha(v) integrins which are differentially regulated by specific cytokines.